1822 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Frances Wright

Anonymous, in Review of Wright, A Few Days in Athens; The Literary Gazette (27 April 1822) 259.



Were Athens the City of Cockney, the Stoic Portico the Eccentric Society's Debating room in May's Buildings St. Martin's Lane, and the Gardens of Epicurus Covent Garden, this volume would be nearer verisimilitude and true character than it is as a picture of Cecropia 2000 years ago. The author of the Views of American Society was no doubt quite as competent to achieve the resurrection of ancient times as to delineate modern manners faithfully; and accordingly this Greek panorama is just as consonant to the ideas and traditions of Attica, as her preceding work was consistent with the nature of existing circumstances in America. Both are chimerical, and both in defiance of reality.

One truth we have discovered from this publication, namely, that the author of the Views, whom we suspected to be a man (in the Literary Gazette review, No. 239,) is in fact a woman, as she gave out. The assurance of this rests on such indisputable authority, that however masculine the opinions, and however unfeminine the sentiments broached in that work, we are compelled to sing our palinode, and confess that an Englishwoman (whether virgin, wife, or widow) called Frances Wright, and not a hot Virginian, has sent these fripperies into the world.

The Few Days in Athens is dedicated to Mr. Jeremy Bentham, and sets out with an address to the reader about the Austrian Vandals in Italy, the speeches of Lord Londonderry, Southey's Laureate Odes, the residence of Louis XVIII. at Ghent, and other equally appropriate subjects. The fair writer then advances to her task, a sort of dull school exercise, of which one Theon is the hero; but she has forgotten to wind up her preface with the quotation so applicable to it, "Dente Theonino Circumrodi;" which we trust her friend, Mr. Bentham will explain to her, should she be as little acquainted with the language of Rome as with the fashions of Greece, or the style of good English writing.