1785 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ann Yearsley

Samuel Badcock, in Review of Yearsley, Poems on Several Occasions; The Monthly Review 73 (September 1785) 219, 221.



This rustic Poetess is under great obligations to Miss More, for bringing forward her productions to public notice, and for placing them and herself in the most advantageous light. A tribute of respect is paid to her private character, as well as to her poetical talents; and we are taught to esteem the woman, while we are entertained with by her Muse.

"I have," says Miss M. "the satisfaction to tell you, dear Madam, that our poor Enthusiast is active and industrious in no common degree. The Muses have not cheated her into an opinion that the retailing a few fine maxims of virtue, may exempt her from the most exact probity in her conduct. I have had some unequivocal proofs that her morality has not evaporated in sentiment, but is, I verily believe, fixed in a settled principle. Without this, with all her ingenuity, as she would not have obtained my friendship, so I should not have had the courage to solicit for her your protection."

Possibly, however, a sufficient trial hath not been made, of the real disposition of our Poetess. The moral qualities of her mind can only be known, when she hath felt the influence of public favour; and from her behaviour in "that decent and comfortable situation," in which she acknowledges she hath been placed by the interest of those who have so warmly exerted themselves to rescue her from the obscurity and penury of her former state, we may discover how far gratitude and humility may be reckoned among the other virtues of her character.

The poems before us, though very unequal in point of merit, bear evident traces of the same wild and fervid imagination. A few of them are of the lighter kind; but Mrs. Yearsley's Muse is in general a "Muse of fire," that makes strong efforts to "ascend the highest heaven of invention." It is sometimes invested with a solemn and melancholy air; and in her more pensive moments she reminds us of the Muse of Dr. Young....

On the whole, these Poems present us with a very striking picture of a vigorous and aspiring genius, struggling with its own feelings. We see an ardent mind exerting itself to throw off every incumbrance that oppresses it, and to burst from the cloud that obscures its lustre.