1894 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Richardson

Austin Dobson, in "Richardson at Home," Eighteenth-Century Vignettes 2 (1894; 1937) 2:69-70.



His habitual male correspondents were none of them of the first order. The most eminent were Young, who was a poet, and Edwards (of the Canons of Criticism), who was a scholar, but Cibber and Aaron Hill represented the general level. It was in his lady correspondents that he was most fortunate. Henry Fielding's sisters, Sally and Patty, had something of their brother's genius; the two Miss Colliers, daughters of Arthur Collier, the metaphysician, were also remarkable women, while Mrs. Delany, Miss Highmore, Miss Mulso, Miss Talbot, and Mrs. (or more strictly) Miss Donellan were all far beyond the eighteenth-century average of what Johnson called "wretched unidea'd girls." To the nervous little genius they must have been invaluable, for they not only supplied him continuously with that fertilizing medium of sympathetic encouragement which robust spirits call by the grosser name of adulation, but their comments and discussions upon his work while in progress afforded much of the stimulus and none of the irritation of applied criticism. They were his School of Emotion; and no one was better aware of the fact than he was. "I have often sat by in company," he tells Lady Echlin, "and been silently pleased with the opportunity given me, by different arguers, of looking into the hearts of some of them, through windows that at other times have been closed."