1869 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Clara Reeve

John Forster, in Landor, a Biography (1869) 47-48.



The accident which led him [Landor] to the subject selected [for Gebir] I have have often heard him relate. He was on friendly terms with some of the family of Lord Aylmer, who were staying in his neighborhood, and one of the young ladies lent him a book, by now a forgotten writer of romances, from the Swansea circulating library. Clara Reeve was the author; but Landor, confusing in his recollection a bad romance writer with a worse of the same sex, thought it was that sister of Mrs. Siddons and John Kemble who lived in the small Welsh town, and wrote under the name of Anne of Swansea. Few of my readers will have heard her name, and I may warn them all against her books, which are mere nonsensical imitations of Mrs. Radcliffe; but Clara Reeve had really some merit, though not discoverable in the particular book lent to Landor. He found it to be a history of romance, having no kind of interest for him until he came at its close to the description of an Arabian tale. This arrested his fancy, and yielded him the germ of Gebir. More than sixty years later he wrote to me from Bath (30th November, 1857) that he had just discovered and sent to a lady near him, also of that Aylmer family, a little poem called St. Clair, written all those years ago for her who thus lent him the book.