1818 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Mary Tighe

Anonymous, "Mrs. Henry Tighe" Ladies' Monthly Museum S3 7 (February 1818) 61-63.



From the number of authors who write for amusement, or aspire after posthumous fame, we have pleasure in selecting the names of those whose unobtrusive merit has attracted notice, and attained celebrity unlooked-for. When we consider the previous accomplishments, the consummate taste, and profound judgment, which are requisite to excel in chaste and classic poetry, it is a subject of pride and just exultation, that so many of our fair country-women have written this most difficult species of composition in the purest and most captivating style; and proves that intellectual excellence is not confined to sex, but is only too often obscured by want of proper cultivation. Among these chosen and favoured few, we rank the late Mrs. HENRY TIGHE, known to the world as the author of Psyche, or, The Legend of Love, with other poems, the wife of William Tighe, Esq. M.P. for Wicklow, whose seat is at Woodstock, in the county of Kilkenny, and who is the author of The Plants, a poem, in 8vo. published in 1808 and 1811, and Statistical Observations on the County of Kilkenny, made in 1800 and 1801. Mrs.Tighe had a pleasing person, and a countenance that indicated melancholy and deep reflection; was amiable in her domestic relations; had a mind well stored with classic literature; and, with strong feelings and affections, expressed her thoughts and sentiments with the nicest discrimination, and a taste the most refined and delicate. Thus endued, it is to be regretted, that Mrs. Tighe should have fallen a victim to a lingering disease of six years at the premature age of thirty-seven, on the 24th of March, 1810, when there was so much to expect from her literary abilities; it is, however, pleasing to reflect, that, in her last moments, she overcame the fear of death, and quitted this transitory scene rejoicing in the hope of another and a better world.

For the subject of the first and principal poem, on which the author's reputation is founded, she has chosen the beautiful ancient allegory of Love and the Soul; and, to depict the purity and innocence of love, has adopted the stanza of Spenser, without using the obsolete words of that antiquated writer, as other writers have usually done. She acknowledges herself indebted to Apuleius for the outline of her tale, though the model is not closely copied, nor has she taken any thing from his imitators. Of the performance itself, which is introduced with a very modest preface, we cannot speak too highly; the versification is most graceful, easy, and flowing; the descriptions beautifully chaste and elegant; nor is it any flattery to say, that the poem may be classed with many of the most celebrated in this language.

A few copies of Psyche, or, The Legend of Love, were at first printed for the author's friends, who read it with delight, and recommended it to the public in these words — "Had the publication of her poems served only as the fleeting record of" her "destiny, and as a monument of private regret," they "would not have thought themselves justified in displaying them to the world; but when a writer, intimately acquainted with classical literature, and guided by a taste for real excellence, has delivered in polished language such sentiments as can tend only to encourage and improve the best sensations of the human heart, then it becomes a sort of duty in surviving friends no longer to withhold from the public such precious relics." This opinion has been confirmed by public approbation; and the poem is now generally read, and justly admired. The smaller poems were not originally intended for publication, but most of them have merit; and many of them are much above mediocrity.