1786 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

George Hardinge

Anna Seward to George Hardinge, 23 September 1786; Letters, ed. Scott (1811) 1:171-73.



Lichfield, Sept. 10, 1786.

"If Miss Seward remembers Mr. Hardinge!" Ah! dull of spirit, if the traces of those few hours, in which she was honoured with his conversation, had faded in her memory!

On their first meeting, he was so good, at Mr. Boothby's request, to read a few passages from the Paradise Lost, as he sat on the window of her dressing-room. "Poetry was then poetry indeed." The ear of her imagination has often brought back his cadences. Born an enthusiast, time has but little abated that propensity, in despite of her consciousness that, in this marble age, nothing is more unfashionable.

Yes, Sir, from the retired situation in which my life has passed away, I have followed you through your brighter and more elevated track, with distant but earnest gaze, and rejoiced in your expanding fame.

Two of your sonnets were given me, to the Fountain, and to the Lyre of Petrarch. With them, amongst others, have I often combated the unmeaning assertion of pedants, that the legitimate sonnet suits not the genius of our language, producing those Avignon little gems as its perfect refutation.

While these arise to the honour of Mr. Hardinge's genius, his generous exertions to promote the amiable and highly ingenious Miss Helen Williams's interest, in the subscription to her poems, do equal honour to his benevolence.

My mother's death, and my father's incapacity for every kind of business, have involved me in much of that employment which seems the contradiction of my fate; so that, together with an inconveniently extensive correspondence, and the social pleasures, by which I am very seducible, little time is left for versifying; yet several thousand lines, of former composition, in the heroic, lyric, and sonnet measure, have long slumbered in my writing-desk, vainly waiting the always receding hour of transcript and revision.

The terms in which you mention my poetical novel, Louisa, gratify me extremely. I know it is the best and ablest of my publications. There may certainly be a best, even where nothing is very good.

Flattered that you preserve n agreeable remembrance of our long past and transient interviews, and that you think the employments of my muse worth this inquiry, I remain, Sir, &c.