1801 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Jane West

Thomas Percy?, in Review of West, Letters addressed to a young Man; British Critic 18 (November 1801) 528-29.



Our general opinion of this work may be gathered from the copious extracts which we have made from it, and the commendations we have bestowed on various parts. Our admiration of it, as a whole, is increased by considering it as the work of a female, "whose secluded life," as she informs us in the Preface, "afforded her few opportunities of profiting by literary conversation, or the collision of minds actuated by a similar taste, and engaged on congenial pursuits:" and we have been informed by a gentleman, who accidentally called upon her last year, at her house in Northamptonshire, that instead of finding her absorbed in books, and surrounded with papers, with all the paraphernalia of a professed authoress, she was employed in looking over the linen of a large family, and regulating its oeconomy, in one of the neatest mansions he ever entered; she herself being a perfect pattern of neatness in her person and dress, and of unaffected simplicity in her manners and characters.

Here then it may not be improper to mention, for the elucidation of that passage in her work (vol. 1, p. 184) wherein she reminds her son of the claims which the established religion has upon him, by his being able "to enumerate among his immediate ancestors and collateral kindred, besides a long list of worthy parochial clergy, some confessors in the cause of episcopacy, and one eminent defender of the most important article of the Christian faith;" that in this last sentence she refers to that excellent Treatise on Christ's Resurrection, by Gilbert West, Esq. For he, and his brother, Admiral West, were Cousins-German of her husband's father; his mother being daughter of the clergyman of his parish, and descended from an uninterrupted succession of its incumbents; one of whom had been a great sufferer in the time of the Rebellion, and had his living sequestered for seventeen years. Mrs. West herself also, by a female line, is descended from the family of Dr. Henchman, some time Bishop of London. This information, which her own modesty would have led her to decline, has been communicated to us by the gentleman above-mentioned. We do not hesitate to add, that her son, whatever boast he may derive from ancestry, or to whatever situation abilities or contingencies may raise him, will always have reason to be most proud of being born of such a mother.