1796 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Charlotte Smith

Anonymous, in Lounger's Common-Place Book (1796) 2:158-59.



Charlotte Smith, a poetess of Sussex, an interesting novelist, and a successful wanderer, in the regions of the picturesque and pathetic poetry.

It is to be lamented, that the fine vein of solemn sadness, with which the sonnets of this ingenious woman are so uniformly tinctured, should derive its origin from domestic inquietude; yet, I trust her private calamities have been alleviated or soothed, by that public approbation, of which she has long and deservedly enjoyed so considerable a share.

Were a work of this writer put into my hand, without her name prefixed, the composition by internal evidence, would almost instantly point out the fair author. A glowing enthusiasm in the cause of civil and religious liberty, a minute description of rustic scenery, with no ordinary share of knowledge in botany and natural philosophy; winds rushing through dark passages, and interrupting the midnight silence, while the moon casts a solemn light through the gothic window of an ancient chapel, or between the branches of a waving wood, and the melancholy murmurings of a stream at a distance, and the sweet bird of night, are objects she apparently dwells on with pleasure, and has introduced with the happiest effect in most of her productions.

Without waiting to decide on the justice of her decisions on the French Revolution, and the obvious caricature with which some of her Gallic portraits are drawn, what Whig or what Tory has not read her novels with pleasure? It seems the prerogative of genius and of taste, to fascinate and overpower all prejudices and all parties. Charles the Second read and praised Paradise Lost, of that stern Republican, who applauded the death, and degraded the memory of his father; and some of the fairest aristocrates of the English capital may be numbered with the admirers of Charlotte Smith.