1811
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Christina, the Maid of the South Seas; a Poem.

Christina, the Maid of the South Seas; a Poem. By Mary Russell Mitford.

Mary Russell Mitford


A novelization of the mutiny on the Bounty, in couplets. The conclusion, imitating Sir Walter Scott's romances, is in Spenserian stanzas. The poem was published with 145 pages of notes. Not seen.

Anti-Jacobin Review: "Miss Mitford, who is understood to be an enthusiastic admirer (for all poets are tinctured with enthusiasm) of Mr. Walter Scott, has here framed a poem, somewhat in form and construction, after his model, upon the memorable events of the mutiny, in the Bounty, Captain Bligh, which occurred more than twenty years ago. The circumstances arising out of that transaction would appear, at first sight, to afford no possible scope for the display of poetical powers; but it is a characteristic of genius to extract amusement from trifles, and to discover sources of instruction and delight, where an ordinary mind can descry only sterility and gloom. This feature of genius has been manifested by Miss Mitford in the poem before us, in which she has contrived to give interest to characters the least calculated to excite it, and to raise, in the bosom of the reader, very different feelings from those which he has been accustomed to experience, in contemplating the conduct of the mutineers" 39 (1811) 260.

Francis Hodgson: "The mutiny on board the Bounty armed ship, in the South Seas, some years ago, and the desertion of the crew with the vessel, must be in the recollection of most of our readers: but they may not so generally have heard of the reported recent discovery of a small English colony, established by some of the mutineers on one of the numerous islands of those seas, called Pitcairn's Island. This discovery, corroborated indeed by some striking circumstances, rests on the authority of an American Captain, named Folger. — The extraordinary circumstance of an infant society, amounting to about thirty persons, acknowledging a runaway English sailor as their governor; all speaking English, and educated in a moral and religious manner; and found, after an interval of eighteen years, (from 1790 to 1808) in an island of the Pacific Ocean; however it may excite the cautious inquiry of the historian, affords a fair subject for poetry. Miss Mitford has taken it for the basis of her present volume, and on the whole has made successful use of her materials; introducing two rival candidates for the hand of her heroine, in order to produce a pleasing little love-plot and denouement. The name of Captain Folger is changed to Seymour; and that of Smith, the only surviving mutineer of the Bounty, to Fitzallan. Christina is the daughter of Christian, the ringleader of the mutiny. He, it is said, committed suicide in a fit of remorse for his ingratitude to Captain Bligh. As to the style of the composition, it is a close imitation of Mr. Scott's popular manner; partaking of most of his faults, and of many also of his beauties" Monthly Review NS 65 (July 1811) 249-50.

Poetical Register for 1810-11: "Her poem entitles her, we think, to an honourable place among the poetical writers of the present age. The interest of her story is supported to the last; her descriptions are animated and true to nature; and her versification has an uncommon portion of melody, freedom, and variety" (1814) 549.

David Macbeth Moir: "From the appearance of The Lay through the series of years to 1812, Sir Walter Scott reigned the undisputed 'Napoleon of the realms of rhyme;' and the swarm of imitators which his success called forth would not be credited in after times, could not reference be made to the contemporary book-lists. Nine-tenths of these imitations were — as might have been expected — 'voces et praeterea nihil,' mere bodiless echoes. A few had stamina, which endured for a season — as Margaret of Anjou, The fight of Falkirk, Christina, the Maid of the South Seas, The Legend of Iona, and some half-dozen others; but the battalia of romances in six cantos, with historical notes, whose name was legion, have, without one exception now occurring to me, long since gone to the tomb of the Capulets, having, after lying undisturbed many long years in their dusty sheets on the subterranean shelves of bookseller's warehouses, been at last bargained for, taken compassion on, and entombed by that tender-hearted body of United Samaritans, the pastry-cooks and trunk-liners" Sketches of the Poetical Literature of the Past Half-Century (1851; 1852) 125-26.

Mary Russell Mitford: "Such was Mr. Coleridge's kind recognition of my father's exertions, that he had the infinite goodness and condescension to look over the proof-sheets of two girlish efforts, Christina, and Blanch, and to encourage the young writer by gentle strictures and stimulating praise. Ah! I wish she had better deserved this honoring notice!" Recollections of a Literary Life (1852) 395.

William Cullen Bryant: "When Scott gave the public the Lay of the Last Minstrel, and other poems, which certainly, considered as mere narratives, are the best we have, carrying the reader forward without weariness, and with an interest which the author never allows to subside, a crowd of imitators pressed after him, the greater part of whom are no longer read" "Poets and Poetry of the English Language" (1876) in Prose Works (1884) 1:148.

W. Davenport Adams: "Mary Russell Mitford, poet and prose writer (b. 1786, d. 1855), published Christine (1811); Poems on the Female Character (1812); Watlington Hill (1812); Julian (1823); Our Village (1824); Foscari (1826); Rienzi (1828); Charles the First; American Stories for Young People (1832); Belford Regis (1835); Country Stories (1837); Recollections of a Literary Life (1851); Atherton and other Tales (1854); and other works" Dictionary of English Literature (1878) 309.



Oh! it is sweet, in this disjointed age,
To 'scape awhile life's sad realities,
Where history weeps o'er the recording page
Of human crimes and human miseries!
From want, from war, th' enfranchis'd spirit flies—
How gladly flies! how mournfully returns!
Still in that southern isle embower'd lies,
Hiding 'mid palmy groves, and glistening burns,
And England's stormy skies and wilder discord spurns.

Still fancy lingers there, to contemplate
The lovely scene, enamor'd of her theme!
Connubial love, most blissful draught of fate,
Mix'd with no rancourous tear, or jealous dream,
Pure, unpolluted, as the crystal stream,
Perfect, as joy in Eden's happy vale;
And peace, content, and piety's mild beam,
Gild with refulgent light the verdant dale,
A softer music breathe, and load the ambient gale.

Home, wanderer, home, again! The spell is past,
Which lur'd thee, fancy, to that southern isle;
The silent lyre from the high plantain cast,
Unvocal now, no longer would beguile
A gentle lady's tear, or critic's smile.
Fancy, why lingerest thou? Thy pleasing pain
Is all gone by; remain and rest awhile;
Again perchance to wake the echoing strain
With firmer, bolder hand. Home wanderer, home again!

[Anti-Jacobin Review 39 (July 1810) 267-68]