1815 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Anne Grant

T. Lyman, in "Letters from Edinburgh" North American Review [Boston] 1 (July 1815) 193-94.



Mrs. Grant of Laggan, who is very much known in Old England and in New England by her two first publications, and very little any-where by her two last, is one of those women that the world is willing to call meritorious, to save themselves the trouble of making any inquiries about her; though there are few women, who have so much fancy and an equal power of conversation the month one is acquainted with her. But the circumstances under which Mrs. Grant introduced herself to the world left no other alternative than to pity and praise. After the death of her husband, she came from the Highlands, where she undoubtedly figured with considerable applause, and brought with her a large family of children — the copy of her "Mountain Letters" — a sanguine and persevering spirit withal — a pretty well-informed mind — a hospitable and communicative disposition, and a strong brogue of Scotch English, and Highland Scotch. The eager and extensive circulation of her letters, however, soon enabled her to establish herself in Edinburgh, where she opened her flat, invited every body to come and see her, and began to write more books. She was caressed by the first people in London — literary ladies opened a correspondence with her, and hundreds of English came galloping down to Scotland with their silly heads full of the most romantick notions about the Highlands and Mrs. Grant. They expected a beautiful, blooming lass of eighteen, just fresh and simple from the side of the mountains, bounding with life, enthusiasm, hope, poetry and nature. But alas! the pleasures of imagination! The honest souls did not recollect how long since Aunt Schuyler flourished at Albany, and that amiable lady herself had indulged the public with American recollections as far back as the year 17—. Mrs. Grant began these recollections when she was only — years old; we marvellously fear, that there are few young ladies in our "degenerate" day, who have such precious good judgments and memories.

Mrs. Grant's strong hold is conversation; she certainly talks with uncommon vivacity, and has that rare faculty of bounding forth from a dangerous height, and when most others would sink, she soars on triumphantly to the end of the sentence. But then she has only three subjects, the life and adventures of Mrs. Anne Grant of Laggan, the beautiful lochs, vales, &c. of the Highlands, and the greatness of the British nation. These dishes, the way she serves them up, are very charming the first four or five weeks. But you know, that the emperour Domitian said, that one could not eat larks' tongues for ever. Mrs. Grant by no means visits the first society in Edinburgh, and, however unwilling one may be to confess it, her literary reputation in particular is not brilliant, and hardly corresponds with the estimation in which she is held in some parts of New-England. But here again her good fortune has procured her zealous and enlightened friends, and it may be my bad fortune, to excite a slight murmur among them by the less than common rapture with which I have mentioned Mrs. Grant. She appears, however, to be aware of the patronage she has received, and her attentions to all Americans, who were made known to her, are very constant and of the kindest description.