1851 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Mary Russell Mitford

David Macbeth Moir, in Sketches of the Poetical Literature of the Past Half-Century (1851; 1852) 275-76.



Miss Mitford requires only a passing mention here. Her first claims on the public were no doubt as a poetess, in her early Sketches, and in her Christina, the Maid of the South Seas — a six-canto production of the Sir Walter Scott school, of considerable merit; but she is chiefly to be remembered as the author of Our Village, so full of truth and raciness and fine English life; and for her three tragedies — Julian, The Vespers of Palermo, and Rienzi — the last of which was, I believe, eminently successful in representation. Her latter verses are all able and elegant; but she is deficient in that nameless adaptation of expression to thought accomplished by some indescribable, some inexplicable collocation of the best words in their best places, apparently quite necessary for the success of poetical phrase. This power, on the contrary, Mary Howitt possesses in perfection, while she is somewhat wanting in the essential matter — the more solid materials which Miss Mitford seems to have ever at command. The one is mightiest in facts, the other in fancy.