1840 ca. ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Elizabeth Smith

Thomas De Quincey, in "Literary Reminiscences" 1840 ca.; Works (1889-90) 2:418.



She was buried in Hawkshead churchyard, where a small tablet of white marble is raised to her memory, on which there is the scantiest record that, for a person so eminently accomplished, I have ever met with. After mentioning her birth and age (twenty-nine), it closes thus: — "She possessed great talents, exalted virtues, and humble piety." Anything so unsatisfactory or so commonplace I have rarely known. As much, or more, is often said of the most insipid people; whereas Miss Smith was really a most extraordinary person. I have conversed with Mrs. Hannah More often about her; and I never failed to draw forth some fresh anecdote illustrating the vast extent of her knowledge, the simplicity of her character, the gentleness of her manners, and her unaffected humility. She passed, it is true, almost inaudibly through life; and the stir which was made after her death soon subsided. But the reason was that she wrote but little! Had it been possible for the world to measure her by her powers, rather than her performances, she would have been placed, perhaps, in the estimate of posterity, at the head of learned women; whilst her own sweet and feminine character would have rescued her from all shadow and suspicion of that reproach which too often settles upon the learned character when supported by female aspirants.