1797 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. James Hurdis

Anna Seward to Mrs. Gell, 13 February 1797; Letters, ed. Scott (1811) 4:311-12.



Yes, I have read Hurdis' Tears of Affection; but neither from that, nor from any other composition of his, did I ever receive pleasure. He has a strange coarse imagination, perpetually presenting disgusting ideas. Do your remember his filthy description of Dol the Dairy maid's teeth in the Village Curate, with his yet more filthy preference of such impure masticators to the clean ivory supplied by the dentist? I suspect, from his Tears of Affection, that he has as little sensibility as cleanliness. The man could not feel real anguish, who suffered his ideas to dwell upon the form of a sister he pretends to have loved so passionately, when that form was ghastly in festering dissolution — still less, since he has endured to describe such an object with his pen. You remember the covering which Clara throws over her lifeless and changing Eloisa, and the heart-piercing anathema she utters at that moment: "Accursed he who shall lift this veil! — who shall presume to look upon this altered face!"

The picture Mr. H. presents of his Isabel, violates the sanctuary of the tomb. It is thus that the unfeeling, when they affect pathos, overstep the modesty of nature, and for the sweet and delicate touches of her sorrows, present us with the bombast of indecent horror.