1833 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Anna Maria Porter

Allan Cunningham, in "Biographical and Critical History of the Literature of the last Fifty Years" The Athenaeum (16 November 1833) 775.



Of JANE PORTER, and her sister ANNA MARIA PORTER, it may be said that they have both obtained distinction in the ranks of imaginative writers, and that their works are numerous, and more or less marked by a sense of the heroic, and a love of all that is wise and virtuous. The former, in her Scottish Chiefs, relates the fortunes of Wallace, and frequently interests our heart and excites our imagination; she is true to the gallant bearing, dauntless courage, and resolution to do or die, which all have united in allowing him; nor is she insensible to his private virtues — his constancy in friendship and in love, and his affection for his father, whose fall he more than avenged. She has, however, added attributes which neither pertained to the times nor to the hero; Wallace loved to sleep in the wild woods in his steel harness, surprise his enemies in the dead of night, storm their castles, and in battle smite with an unsparing sword; in replay to the offer of an earldom, by Edward, he said he loved better to see the blood of his enemies than their gold — their graves rather than their lands; she has drawn him with a hand much too soft and gentle. The works of Anna Maria amount to nearly fifty volumes; nor are those of Jane much less numerous. The first is one of those early prodigies in literature who astonish their friends and perplex biographers. She wrote and published her Artless Tales at twelve years of age. She was, when some six years old, acquainted with Walter Scott; it was his custom, when let loose from school, to hasten to her mother's residence, and tell her interminable stories of faerie and witchcraft. They are sisters to Sir Robert Kerr Porter, and exhibit no small degree of his singular panoramic skill in the conception of their scenes, the distribution of the groups, and the light and shade of composition. They are better acquainted with external form than inward emotion; though in all their works there are scattered passages gentle and affectionate. Their lives have been as blameless as their compositions. Anna Maria died on the 21st of September 1832; Jane, the most eminent, survives.