1829 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Gifford

Anna Brownell Jameson, "Heroines of Modern Poetry" Loves of the Poets (1829; 1857) 513-14.



Gifford, the late editor of the Quarterly Review, and the author of the Baviad and Maeviad, was in early youth doomed to struggle with poverty, obscurity, ill-health, and every hardship which could check the rise of genius. He has himself described the effect produced on his mind, under these circumstances, by his attachment to an amiable and gentle girl. "I crept on," he says, "in silent discontent, unfriended and unpitied; indignant at the present, careless of the future, — an object at once of apprehension and dislike. From this state of abjectness I was raised by a young woman of my own class. She was a neighbor; and whenever I took my solitary walk with my Wolfius in my pocket, she usually came to the door, and by a smile, or a short question, put in the friendliest manner, endeavored to solicit my attention. My heart had been long shut to kindness; but the sentiment was not dead within me it revived at the first encouraging word; and the gratitude I felt for it, was the first pleasing sensation I had ventured to entertain for many dreary months."

There are two little effusions inserted in the notes to the Baviad and Maeviad, which have since been multiplied by copies, and have found their way into almost all collections of lyric poetry and "Elegant Extracts;" one of these was composed during the life of Anna; the other, written after her death, and beginning,

I wish I were where Anna lies,
For I am sick of lingering here,

is extremely striking from its unadorned simplicity and profound pathos. — Such was not the prevailing style of amatory verse at the time it was written, nearly fifty years ago. Mr. Gifford never married; and the effect of this early disappointment could be traced in his mind and constitution to the last moments of his life.