1805 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Anna Laetitia Barbauld

Henry Crabb Robinson, 1805-06; Diary, Reminiscences, and Correspondence (1870; 1872) 1:110.



Mrs. Barbauld bore the remains of great personal beauty. She had a brilliant complexion, light hair, blue eyes, a small elegant figure, and her manners were very agreeable, with something of the generation then departing. She received me very kindly, spoke very civilly of my aunt Zachary Crabb, and said she had herself once slept at my father's house. Mrs. Barbauld is so well known by her prose writings that it is needless for me to attempt to characterize her here. Her excellence lay in the soundness and acuteness of her understanding, and in the perfection of her taste. In the estimation of Wordsworth she was the first of our literary women, and he was not bribed to this judgment by any especial congeniality of feeling, or by concurrence in speculative opinions. I may here relate an anecdote connecting her and Wordsworth, though out of its proper time by many, many years; but it is so good that it ought to be preserved from oblivion. It was after her death that Lucy Aikin published Mrs. Barbauld's collected works, of which I gave a coy to Miss Wordsworth. Among the poems is a stanza on Life, written in extreme old age. It had delighted my sister, to whom I repeated it on her death-bed. It was long after I gave these works to Miss Wordsworth that her brother said, "Repeat me that stanza by Mrs. Barbauld." I did so. He made me repeat it again. And so he learned it by heart. He was at the time walking in his sitting-room at Rydal with his hands behind him; and I heard him mutter to himself, "I am not in the habit of grudging people their good things, but I wish I had written those lines."