1882 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Helen Maria Williams

Epes Sargent, in Harper's Cyclopaedia of British and American Poetry (1882) 262.



Miss Williams (1762-1827) was a native of the North of England, and was ushered into the public notice when she was eighteen by Dr. Kippis. She published Edwin and Elfrida, a poem; Peru, a poem; and other pieces, afterwards collected in two volumes. In 1790 she settled in Paris. There she became intimate with Madame Roland and the most eminent of the Girondists; and in 1794 was imprisoned, and nearly shared their fate. She escaped to Switzerland, but returned to Paris in 1796, and resided there till her death. She shared the religious opinions of the "Theophilanthropists," who were pure Theists. The one exquisite hymn by which she is known has been freely adopted, however, by all Christian sects. In 1823 she collected and republished her poems. Of one of her sonnets she says: "I commence the sonnets with that to Hope, from a predilection in its favor for which I have a proud reason: it is that of Mr. Wordsworth, who lately honored me with his visits while at Paris, having repeated it to me from memory after a lapse of many years."