1845 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Barbara Hofland

John Holland, "Mrs. Hofland" Poets of Yorkshire; comprising Sketches of the Lives, and Specimens of the Writings of those Children of Song (1845) 144-46.



Barbara, the daughter of Mr. Robert Wreaks, partner in an extensive Sheffield manufactory, was born in that town in 1770. In 1796, she married Mr. T. B. Hoole, a person also engaged in the Sheffield trade; and who in little less than two years after died, leaving his young widow and and infant son four months old, comparatively unprovided for. Surrounded by active and sympathising friends, and having indulged in composition from early life, she was induced to publish by subscription a volume of verse; and in May, 1805, appeared "Poems, by Barbara Hoole," dedicated to the Countess Fitzwilliam, and presenting an almost unexampled list of subscribers — the names filling more than forty pages! These compositions evince a degree of good sense, vivid poetical conception, and for the most part, an appropriateness of diction, highly creditable to the then inexperienced authoress. After a widowhood of eleven years, this ingenious and estimable woman became the wife of Mr. Hofland, a well-known landscape painter, and author of the "Angler's Manual." "Ut pictora, poesis erit," says Horace; and in the case before us, the prolific pen of the wife was for many years not less unweariedly or successfully exerted than the gifted pencil of the husband; perhaps, indeed, no living woman, one way or other, has written so much. With one exception, I believe, the many works of Mrs. Hofland have been very popular, both in America and on the continent of Europe. The exception alluded to, was a little volume of humorous rhyme in imitation of Anstey's "New Bath Guide," published by this lady in 1812, and entitled "A Season at Harrogate; in a series of Poetical Epistles, from Benjamin Blunderhead, Esquire, to his Mother, in Derbyshire." The scenery in the neighbourhood of Harrowgate has been indebted to the pencil of Mr. Hofland, as well as to the pen to his wife, in the series of six fine coloured prints of views in Bolton, which were published by that gentleman. The following verses are from the pleasing collection of "Poems above-mentioned:—

TO FREDERICK.
Tho' Friendship may soothe me with tenderness sweet,
Benevolence open her arms,
And bless my poor heart with this tranquil retreat,
Secure from life's cruel alarms:

Still true to its object, an instinct divine
Draws me near thee the farther we part,
My being's best essence, my Frederick! is thine,
Thou child of my soul, of my heart!

Surrounded by many my bosom holds dear,
Sweet prattlers that solace the day,
Yet the vigils of night claim the bitterest tear,
A Mother bereaved can pay.

Sole source of exertion! sole object of hope!
Who taught me when sunk in despair,
With the anguish of blasted enjoyment to cope,
And smile on the fetters of care:

Say wilt thou when time shall have mellowed thy brow
And his down shades the rose on thy cheek,
With the voice of maturity fondly, as now,
The language of tenderness speak?

In the hey-day of youth wilt thou stop to reflect
What pangs through this bosom must press,
Should it meet the cold glance of unfeeling neglect,
From the child it has languish'd to bless?

When tottering with age, or grief's early decay,
Shall thy love my best comforter be?
Wilt thou cherish the Parent so wrinkled and grey,
Who knows no Protector but thee?

Shall I view in my darling, thus blessing and blest,
His Father's dear image restored;
Then sinking to death, on thy dutiful breast,
Revisit my Husband, my Lord?

The child thus affectionately apostrophised, and to whom the author devoted the proceeds of her first volume, did live to justify his mother's best hopes, and repay her solicitude in the virtues of the man; but the anticipations of the closing lines were not realized; for, "on the 16th of March, 1833, in the 35th year of his age, died the Rev. Frederick Bradshaw Hoole, one of the curates of St. Andrew's, Holborn, London. Perhaps," adds the Metropolitan journal from which this obituary is copied, "there was never a man more calculated to fill and fulfil the duties of the sacred office, which was his own free choice, than the individual whose loss we mourn, with many poor, on whom death has closed a hand, open as the day to melting charity." Mrs. Hofland died at Richmond, in Surrey, November 9th, 1844, in the 75th year of her age.