1805 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Horace Walpole

Anna Seward to Miss Posonby, 31 October 1805; Letters, ed. Scott (1811) 6:234-35.



I am now listening, for the first time, to Lord Orford's brilliant and interesting letters. Till now they never fell in my way, and I was too indignant of his cruel neglect of Chatterton sedulously to seek them. With all their infinity of wit and spirit; with all their polished ease and gay fastidiousness, I perceive in the mind of the writer, a native want of attention to works of poetic fancy. This defect of temperament, cooperating with many testimonies of a warm and kind heart towards his friends, soften my censure of that unfeeling neglect which blasted, in its morning, a genius pre-eminent, so that I almost consider it as an involuntary fault. To be sure I have, from my youth up to now, thought it impossible that a man of Horace Walpole's abilities could see without perceiving the magnitude of that genius, which planned the deception respecting poetic antiquity. Alas! blind to the sublimity of the poems, he saw only the deception. His mind could but dart with the swallow over poetic regions, not soar with the eagle, or trace him in the sun-track.