1792 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Clara Reeve

Clara Reeve, "An Account of Clara Reeve" 1792; The Monthly Magazine 24 (January 1808) 601.



Ipswich, April 18, 1792.

SIR,

My father was an Old Whig, from him I have learned all that I know, he was my oracle; he used to make me read the parliamentary debates while he smoaked his pipe after supper; I gaped and yawned over them at the time, but unawares to myself, they fixed my principles once and for ever. He made me read Rapin's History of England, the information it gave, made amends for its dryness. I read Cato's letters by Trenchard and Gordon, I read the Greek and Roman Histories, and Plutarch's Lives; all these at an age when few people of either sex can read their names. My opinions have never altered since I was twenty-one years of age, and now I am nearer sixty than fifty. You will find that I am no longer to be called Miss, but will in future address to Mrs. C. Reeve, Ipswich. I consider Mr. Burke, and Mr. Paine, as the extreme points of opposition, I think there is equal fallacy in both, with this difference however, that Paine believes all that he says, and Burke does not; that he means to deceive, and throw dust in the eyes of his readers. I wish and pray for my country's welfare and happiness, and would wear out the remainder of my eyes and hands to do it service; but I cannot suppose that my feeble hand could avail, to storm the torrent of vice, folly, luxury, and corruption. I honour those who use their talents for this noble and honourable purpose. I wish that you, sir, may use your time and talents to this end; and I pray you to give efficacy to your endeavours to serve your country. I have been all my life straitened in my circumstances, and used my pen to support a scanty establishment; yet, I have drawn my pen to the best of my knowledge, on the side of truth, virtue, and morality, and I have endeavoured to use my talents so as not to undervalue the gifts of heaven, nor overrate my own abilities. I have not yet read Mrs. Wolstonecraft's Rights of Women, but I am promised them by a friend, and I will afterwards give you my opinion, if you think it worth your attention.

C. REEVE.