1805
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To Miss Catherine Mallet.

Poetical Register and Repository for Fugitive Poetry for 1805 (1807) 26-27.

Anna Seward


A Horatian ode in four Spenserians dated from "Lichfield, Nov. 1805." "This young Lady is of Brinston-Street, London" note. This poem is an instance of the advice-giving genre practiced by a number of women writers of the time. The point of this poem seems to be to lend encouragement to a friend departing provincial Lichfield: "Knowledge and Taste are thine, and bid thee scorn | Each shaft of ENVY, FALSEHOOD, PRIDE, and HATE, | For thou hast soar'd where they have never sat."

Anna Seward to Miss Posonby: "I cannot therefore repent having published my Sonnets and Horatian Paraphrases, since they have obtained such warm praise from my lettered friends.... If I do not extremely flatter myself, the sonnets possess an inherent buoyancy, which give them the power of emerging in future. That expectation has been often ridiculed as the forlorn hope of the poet; but Spenser, Milton, Otway, Collins, and Chatterton, are instances that it is not always found vain" 21 May 1799; Letters, ed. Scott (1811) 5:230.

Samuel Egerton Brydges: "Her first publications were her best; and indeed so much superior to her last, as to form a subject of rational wonder" Censura Literaria 10 (1809) 409.

Walter Scott to Joanna Baillie: "The despair I used to feel on receiving poor Miss Seward's letters, whom I really liked, gave me a most unsentimental horror for sentimental letters The crossest thing I ever did in my life was to poor Miss Seward; she wrote me in an evil hour (I had never seen her, mark that!) a long and most passionate epistle upon the death of a dear friend, whom I had never seen neither, concluding with a charge not to attempt answering the said letter, for she was dead to the world, etc., etc., etc. Never were commands more literarally obeyed. I remained as silent as the grave, till the lady made so many inquiries after me, that I was afraid of my death being prematurely announced by a sonnet or an elegy. When I did see her, however, she interested me very much, and I am now doing penance for my ill-breeding, by submitting to edit her posthumous poetry, most of which is absolutely execrable. This, however, is the least of my evils, for when she proposed this bequest to me, which I could not in decency refuse, she combined it with a reqquest that I would publish her whole literary correspondence. This I declined on principle, having a particular aversion at perpetrating that sort of gossip; but what availed it? Lo! to insure the publication, she left it to an Edinburgh bookseller; and I anticipate the horror of seeing myself advertised for a live poet like a wild beast on a painted streamer, for I understand all her friends are depicted therein in body, mind, and manners. So much for the risks of sentimental correspondence" 18 March 1810; in Lockhart, Life of Scott (1837-38; 1902) 2:156.

Anne Grant to Mrs. Fletcher: "Her poetry, on which she prided herself, I cannot taste at all; and her Darwin, I cannot endure" 26 July 1820; in Memoir and Correspondence, ed. Grant (1844) 2:245.

Robert Southey: "She was a woman whose talents, if her language had not been distorted by false notions of excellence in composition, might have retained for her the high station among female writers, which in her palmy days it was allowed that she had won. Though not always a judicious critic, she was never unjust or ungenerous in her censures; and if she frequently mistook glittering faults for beauties, so beauty ever escaped her observation" Life of Cowper (1836-37) 2:45.

Seward's collected Poems and Letters appears in the 1844 sale catalogue of Southey's library with the note, "This work contains eleven pages of additional interesting matter in the neat autograph of the Poet Laureate"; see A. N. L. Munby, Sale Catalogues of Libraries of Eminent Persons (1971-75) 9:209.



Yet two short days, my CATHERINE! — then no more
Beneath our long-lov'd SPIRES, thy graceful Form
Shall lightly glide, to cheer my languid hour
With emanations sparkling, soft and warm,
Shed from the MIND'S rich stores; and with the charm
Of language accurate, by habit taught
Th' ideal Train with happiest powers to arm,
That rise in swift subservience to each thought,
Whether with Reason's strength, or Fancy's radiance fraught.

Now damp November's desolating gale
Covers the brooks with shrunk and yellow leaves:
His iron skies scowl on our darling Vale,
Nor aught from sway more stern the Scene reprieves.
Of thee since Destiny my heart bereaves,
Lone wintry sighs in unison ascend
With the chill blast which faded Nature grieves!—
On me her griefs, but not her hopes attend;
SPRING shall return to her, when distant far my Friend!

No Expectation tells, with voice benign,
That future years shall give her back to me,—
Thou may'st again behold these Turrets shine,
These bowers may spread, these meadows bloom for thee,
But here no more wilt thou thine ANNA see,
Yet not for that shroud those mild eyes in gloom,
She twines the cypress wreath, by Heav'n's decree,
For many a Victim of the ruthless Tomb!—
Set are her heart-dear Orbs where no blest mornings come!

For thee, loved MAID, extracted be each thorn
That lurks amid the roses of thy fate!
Knowledge and Taste are thine, and bid thee scorn
Each shaft of ENVY, FALSEHOOD, PRIDE, and HATE,
For thou hast soar'd where they have never sat;
Trac'd GENIUS in his sun-track; with rapt gaze,
Ador'd bright Nature in her scenic state,
And in thy morn of life and riper day,
Fed thy clear lamp of Faith from TRUTH'S unclouded ray!

[pp. 26-27]