1884 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Mary Howitt

Alaric Alfred Watts, in Alaric Watts, a Narrative of his Life, by his Son (1884) 2:2-3.



Between my mother [Zilla Wiffen — Mrs. Alaric Alexander Watts] and Mary Howitt, born and brought up in the same social and religious community of the Society of Friends, and born in the same year, there was naturally much in common. There was between them a concordia discors which made them eminently complementary one to the other. Mary Howitt had by far the more active and daring imagination; my mother, perhaps, more reflection and the greater power of formulating and acting out definite conclusions. Mary Howitt, at that time, would certainly not have ventured to subject herself to disownment from the Society of Friends; my mother would, as assuredly, not have dared to write The Seven Temptations. The former loved Nature with all her heart, and absolute contact with it was an ever-present necessity to her free spirit; the latter loved it too, but was content to watch it and its processes afar off, from her sofa at the window, and felt on the whole, perhaps, a deeper sympathy with human nature. A walk in Kensington Gardens refreshed her spirit and fed her imagination, as a ramble in Sherwood Forest did that of her friend. Mary Howitt was physically sanguine, eager, full of enterprise, possibly a little rash; my mother somewhat lymphatic, looking more in advance into the issues of things, prudent, inclined to be fearful. The imagination of the one led her to see all that was to be hoped, that of the latter what there was to inspire doubt, in an enterprise or course of action. Both were, in different ways, sympathetic, ardent, enthusiastic, lovers of poetry and the poetry of life.