1834 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Anna Seward

Samuel Egerton Brydges, in Autobiography (1834) 1:57-58.



Miss Seward had not the art of making friends, except among the little circle whom she flattered, and who flattered her. I never saw her myself, but judge only from the manner in which she was spoken of. My friend Shaw, whom she noticed, though her the greatest of poetesses. She both gave offence and provoked ridicule by her affectation, and bad taste, and pompous pretensions. It cannot be denied she sometimes showed flashes of genius; but never in continuity. She believed that poetry rather lay in the diction than in the thought; and I am not acquainted with any literary letters, which exhibit so much corrupt judgment, and so many false beauties as her's. Her sentiments are palpably studied, and disguised, and dressed up. Nothing seems to come from the heart, but all to be put on. I understand the Andre family say, that in the Monody on Major Andre, all about his attachment, and Honora Sneyd, &c. is a nonsensical falsehood, of her own invention. Among her numerous sonnets, there are not above five or six which are good; and I cannot doubt that Dr. Darwin's hand in in many of her early poems. The inequalities of all her compositions are of the nature of patchwork.