1822 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Mary Russell Mitford

Eleanor Anne Porden to Mary Russell Mitford, 11 October 1822; L'Estrange, Friendships of Mary Russell Mitford (1882) 95.



Next week will find me at home and hard at work after these my holidays; consequently, according to my former reasoning, both able and willing to find a spare hour for the perusal of your tragedy. I hope it is not very horrible, for I hate the horrors which have been so much in vogue, and have never read either Melmoth or Frankenstein. I believe I might have made myself more popular if I could get over a certain dislike to write what I should dislike to read; and, though it may be presumption to attack celebrated names and celebrated passages, I must own that Virgil's "Envy" and Spenser's "Cave of Error" are my aversion, as well as some other most exquisitely disgusting allegories. Our own Milton, I think, always keeps clear of this fault; and I cannot believe, in spite of Mr. Maturin and Mr. Wilson and Lord Byron, that it is true taste which tolerates it. Did you ever read the City of the Plague [by John Wilson]? If you have, did you not regret that so many passages, such pure poetry, tenderness, and sublimity, are mixed with descriptions that would almost prevent one from ever reopening the volume? Plague and famine are find subjects for the Muse, but she need not give one a medical detail of their physical horrors.