1828 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Anna Laetitia Barbauld

Leigh Hunt, in Review of Dyce, Specimens of British Poetesses; The Companion (9 July 1828) 393-94.



Mrs. Barbauld, like other persons of genuine fancy, had great good sense. Mr. Hazlitt has mentioned somewhere her Essay on the Inconsistency of our Expectations. If ever she committed a mistake, she was one, we conceive, who would retrieve it, or bear the consequences, in the best manner. We believe that it is generally understood she did make one, when she married Mr. Barbauld, — a "little Presbyterian parson," as Johnson indignantly called him. Not that he was not a good man, but very much her inferior; a dwarf altogether, to one of her liberal dimensions. "Such tricks hath strong imagination," even when united with the strongest understanding. The latter indeed sometimes only favours the trick, by using its levelling faculty with regard to the many, in vindication of the favoured object; and by a promise of being sufficient to itself, in case of the worst. But youth generally settles these matters, before the understanding is ripened; and knowledge and repentance are forced by society to grow on the same bough. To judge by her writings (and by what better things can we judge, if they have the right look of sincerity?) Mrs. Barbauld ought to have had a Raleigh or a Sidney for her lover. She had both intellect and passion enough to match a spirit heroical. The song beginning "Come here, fond youth, whoe'er thou be," has all the devoted energy of the old poets.