1830 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Anne Finch

William Wordsworth to Alexander Dyce, May 1830; in Letters of the Wordsworth Family, ed. Knight (1907) 3:422-24.



And now at last for the poems of Lady Winchelsea. I will transcribe a note from a blank leaf of my own edition, written by me before I saw the scanty notice of her in Walpole. (By-the-bye, that book has always disappointed me, when I have consulted it upon any particular occasion.) The note runs thus: "The Fragment, page 280, seems to prove that she was attached to James Second, as does page 42, and that she suffered by the Revolution. The most celebrated of these poems, but far from the best, is The Spleen. The Petition for an Absolute Retreat and A Nocturnal Reverie are of much superior merit. See also for favourable specimens, page 156, On the Death of Mr. Thynne; page 263; and Fragment, page 280. The fable of Love, Death, and Reputation, page 29, is ingeniously told." Thus far my own note. I will now be more particular. Page 3, "Our vanity," etc., and page 163 are noticeable as giving some account from herself of her authorship. See also page 148, where she alludes to The Spleen. She was unlucky in her models, Pindaric odes and French fables. But see page 70, The Blindness of Elymas, for proof that she could write with powers of a high order when her own individual character and personal feelings were not concerned. For less striking proofs of this power, see page 4, All is Vanity, omitting verses five and six, and reading "clouds that are lost and gone," etc. There is merit in the next two stanzas; and the last stanza towards the close contains a fine reproof of the ostentation of Louis XIV, and one magnificent verse, "Spent the astonished hours, forgetful to adore." But my paper is nearly out. As far as "For my garments," page 36, the poem is charming; it then falls off, but revives at page 39, "Give me there"; page 41, etc., reminds me of Dyer's Gongar-Hill. It revives on page 47, towards the bottom, and concludes with sentiments worthy of the writer, though not quite so happily expressed as in other parts of the poem. See pages 82, 92, "Whilst in the Muses' paths I stray," page 113. The Cautious Lovers, page 118, has little poetic merit, but is worth reading as characteristic of the author. See also page 143, Birthday of Lady Catherine Lupton, "Deep lines of honour," etc., to "maturer age." Page 151, if shortened, would be striking; page 154 is characteristic; page 159, from "Meanwhile ye living parents," to the close, omitting "Nor could we hope," and the five following verses, also page 217, "In Praise of Writing Letters," last paragraph, and page 259, that you have. Also pages 262, 263; and page 280. Was Lady Winchelsea a Roman Catholic? Page 290, The Tree, "And to the clouds proclaim thy fall?": on page 291, A Nocturnal Reverie, omit "When scattered glow-worms," and the next couplet. I have no more room.