1786 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Clara Reeve

Anna Seward to Miss Scott, 29 March 1786; Letters, ed. Scott (1811) 1:135-36.



Miss Reeves' reply to my Stricture on her Richardsonian absurdity [editor's note: Gent. Mag. Feb. 1786] is at once weak and artful. Her Treatise on Romance is, in every respect, a work extremely below the level of those talents to which we believe ourselves indebted for the admirable English Baron. The former seems chiefly written to court the favour of our reviewers, whom it meanly invests with that justice and ability of decision to which their general strictures have so little pretension. How should they be able, and how are they likely to be just, composed, as the general class of them are, of hireling authors, whose own works have not merit, or celebrity to afford them a maintenance? Hence are they naturally the foes of their superior and more fortunate rivals. Miss Reeves, in her work on romances, exposes her ignorance in terming H. Cleveland an original, and the composition of an unknown writer; since it is well understood to be a translation from the celebrated Abbe Prevost.

We are this year threatened with as long a dreariness as banished from the last year our genial hours of fresh prelusive sweetness; robbed our banks of their primroses and violets, and our fields and hills of their golden king-cups.