1812 ca. ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Anna Seward

George Hardinge, 1812 ca.; Nichols, Illustrations of the Literary History of the XVIII Century (1817-58) 1:488-89.



That celebrated female has conferred upon me the unsolicited honour of printing, and publishing her answer to me upon this topic [Sneyd Davies] and upon EVERY OTHER which had been the subject of mutual CONFIDENCE between us — either transcribed (as the Editor has represented) from her own copies of those Letters, made when she wrote the originals first, or, as I suspect, in this particular instance, from the originals; but, upon either supposition, with perfidy in cold blood, unexampled (I hope) in literary intercourse.

After many high-flown compliments to me, whom she had never seen but once, and after the exchange of childish pedantries between us, my disagreement with her upon subjects of criticism embittered her against me; for, with all her attainments in literature, she overlooked a maxim of Cicero, "that we should refute without anger, and should be refuted without pertinacity." She laid her commands upon me, in a fit of spleen, to return all the Letters I had received, offering to part with all mine back to me, upon a solemn pledge between us, instituted by herself, that no trace of the correspondence was ever to appear. — This contract, with my perfect assent, was in part executed — she sent back all my Letters to me — I burnt them. She obtained possession of her own to me; and I received a direct assurance from her, which I also burnt (with a disdain to keep it as a check, and a security), that no vestige of the opinions, or sentiments, which had been circulated between her and me, should ever appear.

Instead of keeping her word, she has betrayed, by a posthumous deceit, but contemplated with deliberate foresight, in the shape of her own replies, all the idle rhapsodies of criticism, or taste, which at the impulse of the moment I had communicated, as her friend. She has trafficked away her good faith, and sense of honour, to a Bookseller; and has exposed me to ridicule, as guilty, at the best, of a "labor ineptiarum," and at the worst — of many unfashionable opinions, which I thought sacred in her hands. She has even copied one entire letter of mine to her, in a letter to her friend. This too, after we had parted in amity, and after some kind attentions to me on her part, even since we had quarrelled upon literary subjects alone.

That is not all; nor is it the worst. There are passages of a delicate nature in my Letters, affecting the character of respectable individuals, which a feeling mind would have shuddered even at the POWER of revealing to the indiscriminate world; and she had not suppressed ONE of them, if made, as they generally were, the subjects of Letters to me.