1826 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Mary Russell Mitford

John Wilson, et. al., in Blackwood's Magazine (November 1826); Noctes Ambrosianae, ed. Mackenzie (1854) 2:287.



TICKLER. Master Christopher North, there's Miss Mitford, author of Our Village, an admirable person in all respects, of whom you have never, to my recollection, taken any notice in the Magazine. What is the meaning of that? Is it an oversight? Or have you omitted her name intentionally from your eulogies on our female worthies?

NORTH. I am waiting for her second volume. Miss Mitford has not, in my opinion, either the pathos of humor of Washington Irving; but she excels him in vigorous conception of character, and in the truth of her pictures of English life and manners. Her writings breathe a sound, pure, and healthy morality, and are pervaded by a genuine rural spirit — the spirit of merry England. Every line bespeaks the lady.

SHEPHERD. I admire Miss Mitford just excessively. I dinna wunner at her being able to write sae well as she does about drawing-room wi' sofas and settees, and about the fine folk in them seein' themsells in lookin' glasses frae tap to tae; but what puzzles the like o' me is her pictures o' poachers, and tinklers, and pottery-trampers, and ither neer-do-weels, and o' huts and hovels without riggin by the way-side, and the cottages o' honest puir men, and byres, and barns, and stack-yards; and merry-makin' at winter-ingles, and courtship aneath trees, and at the gable-ends o' farm-houses, atween lads and lasses as laigh in life as the servants in her father's ha'. That's the puzzle, and that's the praise. But ae word explains a' — Genius — Genius — wull a' the metafhizzians in the warld ever expound that mysterious mony-syllable?