1811 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Anna Seward

Thomas Percy to Jane West, 5 January 1811; Nichols, Illustrations of the Literary History of the XVIII Century (1817-58) 8:428-29.



Her critical remarks, though sometimes acute, are not always judicious; as might be easily shown. She classes Shakespeare along with Milton and other epic writers; she unites the pastorals of Ambrose Philips and Gay, though the former were meant to give the pure pastoral simplicity, and the latter a burlesque upon them. In mentioning the poets of our time, after enumerating those of England and Scotland, she represents Ireland as totally deficient in writers of this class, utterly forgetting Goldsmith, whose two best poems have been thought not inferior to any in our language, and also that her favourite dramatist Jephson wrote other poems besides his Tragedies. She finds great fault with the elegant simplicity of Addison's style in the Spectator; and no wonder, for nothing can be more opposite to her own, which exhibits such turgid and distorted phrases as the following: "manified," "womanized," also "pleasantness," "direness," "seldomness." She talks of the "giantism" of Shakespeare, of the "frostism" of Bishop Hurd, and has many other similar new-coined words, as "technicisms," "incendiarism," "grandmotherism" &c. &c.