1853 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Jane Brereton

Frederick Rowton, in Female Poets of Great Britain (1853) 122.



This clever writer, who was very popular in her own day, was the daughter of Mr. Thomas Hughes, a gentleman of good family, in Flintshire, where she was born in 1685. In 1711 she married Mr. Thomas Brereton, of Oxford University; with whom, however, she lived so unhappily, that a separation took place a few years after their union. In 1721 she retired into Wales; and she died in 1740.

It was the custom of literary ladies in the seventeenth century to assume some fanciful name, and to write under that appellation. Mrs. Brereton signed herself "Melissa," and under that nom de guerre acquired some celebrity in the pages of the Gentleman's Magazine. She particularly distinguished herself in some poetical controversies which were carried on in that work. For readiness, tact, and good, strong, witty satire she has not many superiors among lady-writers.

Mrs. Brereton's productions are by no means remarkable for the delicacy and gracefulness that ususally distinguish the writings of the female sex: on the contrary, there is a roughness, a vigour, a breadth in them, which might lead the reader to fancy that the productions of Melissa proceeded from the pen of a gentleman, rather than from that of a lady.