1820 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Charlotte Smith

T., in "On the Female Literature of the present Age" New Monthly Magazine 13 (March 1820) 272.



The works of Charlotte Smith supply a connecting link between romances and novels. She does not lay her scenes among the mountains of Italy, or tinge them with the fearful view of supernatural terror, but she discloses, with exquisite skill, the sources of high and poetical interest, in the vicissitudes of English life. She makes ordinary things appear romantic. She has, it is true, no power of sketching or of developing characters — her heroes and heroines are, for the most part, alike in all generous sensibilities and personal charms — and when she attempts to draw real portraits from actual observation, she only disgusts with hideous caricatures, or chills with shadowy abstractions. But there is a sweet and gentle interest, a tender charm in her tales, which numerous characteristic sketches would only weaken. The "purple light of love" is shed over all her scenes. Her Old Manor House is one of the most exquisite of novels. The very names of Orlando and Monimia are "silver sweet," and those to whom they are given are worthy to bear them. This tale seems to us more like a delicious recollection of early youth than an enchanting fiction. Its spell will never be broken. The little turret of Monimia — the curious passage thence to the library — the gentle coming on of love in the sweetly stolen interviews, seem like remembrances of childhood. The Old Mansion still lifts its towers, fit home for imprisoned love — there Mrs. Rayland yet keeps her state—

And there Orlando still adores
His little captive maid!