1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Mary Tighe

James Mackintosh, Diary entry for 27 January 1812; Life of Sir James Mackintosh (1853) 2:195-96.



27th. — Sorrow seems to be the muse of song, and from Philomela to Mrs. Tighe the most plaintive notes are the most melodious. I have read Psyche; I am sorry Mrs. Tighe chose such a story: it is both too mystical and too much exhausted. For the first three cantos I felt a sort of languid elegance and luscious sweetness, which had something of the same effect as if I had been overpowered by perfumes; but the three last are of such exquisite beauty that they quite silence me. They are beyond all doubt the most faultless series of verses every produced by a woman. All writers so elegant appear to have less genius than they really have; it is so much Virgil, Racine, and Gray; but I cannot consent to depose Madame de Stael, or even Joanna Baillie, to make room for your Irish queen. The masculine understanding of the one and the Shakspearian genius of the other, place them in my opinion, above this most elegant poetess. Some of her small poems are beautiful. Chaulieu, Michael Bruce, and Mrs. Tighe have written verses on the prospect of death, and hers are not the least affecting. How beautiful is the description of the dwelling and appearance of that prude Castabella!