1844 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Anna Brownell Jameson

R. H. Horne, in "Harriet Martineau and Mrs. Jameson" New Spirit of the Age (1844; 2d edition) 2:78-79.



Mrs. Jameson is an established favourite with the public. She is an accomplished woman, an eloquent and no less elegant writer, and her refined taste and quick sensibility are good influences on her age. Her Characteristics of Women contain a searching analysis of character and fine criticism, such as ought to place her name among those of the greatest of the commentators of Shakspere. Her exposition of the character of Cordelia is, in especial, beautifully true; and her perception of the intensity, and strength, and real dignity of soul in Helena (in All's Well that Ends Well,) notwithstanding that the tenour of all the incidents and circumstances around her wound and shock, manifests the true power to look beyond the outward shows of things and read the heart. The Visits and Sketches at Home and Abroad is a delightful book; accomplishing that rare task of rendering descriptions of works of art pleasant reading instead of dull catalogues. The authoress has also published the Lives of Celebrated Female Sovereigns; and Explanatory Notes to the Series of Outlines by Retzch, called Retzch's Fancies. The Diary of an Ennuyee has gone through more editions than any of her works. It is not only a delightful book of travels, but the vivid picture of an individual mind — a personal narrative, which is always exciting and interesting. But self-consciousness, the bane of all real emotion is implied in the possibility of recording emotion; and feeling is apt "to die, if it but look upon itself." Hence, we regard those who enrich the world's experience by the disclosure of their own souls, to be themselves the sacrifice; for both joy and sorrow are blunted by their own record. Her last work, up to this period, is entitled Companion to the most celebrated Private Galleries of Art; in which, white she never outrages the reader by those strong prejudices of indiscriminate laudation or detraction, so common to writers who speak of the modern as well as the old masters, she continually presents us with some of the most delightful and truthful descriptions ever penned. In one respect also Mrs. Jameson has the advantage over her predecessors — she is more careful.