1826
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

[Sir John Chiverton: Dedicatory Stanzas.]

Sir John Chiverton: a Romance.

William Harrison Ainsworth


Four lyric Spenserians. Sir John Chiverton, a historical novel, was written anonymously by William Harrison Ainsworth (1805-82) in collaboration with John Partington Aston. Fanny Ebers, to whom the verses are addressed, was the daughter of the publisher, John Ebers, who would be influential in Ainsworth's career in the book trade. Not seen.

Monthly Magazine: "In some dedicatory verses of great tenderness and smoothness, the author announces the present work as his first and last attempt at fiction. He succeeds too well, not to break his word. He plainly possesses some of the right qualities for storytelling. Natural scenery, and the movements of living objects, he describes with warmth, taste, and distinctness; and some little touches, as elicited in the conflicts of action, afford us occasionally a glimpse of some real power of observation, and considerable facility of language" NS 2 (September 1826) 321.

Literary Gazette: "There is much that deserves warm commendation in this tale of the olden time; the style is very elegant; and a rich picturesque illusion surrounds the whole fiction. The characters, too, are highly interesting: that of the beautiful Ellice is sweetly sketched; and that of Sir John Chiverton, brave, noble, and affectionate; though his pride makes him the dupe and slave of evil agents, and leads him on the commission of crime, from which his better nature revolts" (8 July 1826) 422.

New Monthly Magazine: "This work is destined, or we mistake greatly, to become a permanent favourite with lovers of fiction. If a romantic and affecting story, characters vigorously drawn, and scenes and incidents described with almost the force of reality, constitute an attractive book, then will this tale be probably found in nearly every library from which fiction is not excluded. The admirers of Mrs. Radcliffe, and of the author of Waverley, will find that they may extend their affection yet a little further, and, in Sir John Chiverton, be moved again to tears, or merriment, or awe, at the will of the unknown author, and his 'so potent art'" NS 18 (August 1826) 318.

Monthly Review: "It is understood that this volume is the production of Mr. Ainsworth. If it be his first essay in fictitious narrative, it affords him a promise of no mean success in that department of our literature.... He is very happy in his descriptions of that sort of rude Sylvan scenery, which abounded in England in the early part of the reign of Elizabeth, the time when the action of this romance is supposed to have taken place: and the costume, as well as the sentiments of his dramatis personae, are in perfect keeping with that semi-barbarous age" S3 3 (December 1826) 438-39.

John Wilson: "NORTH. Mr. Ainsworth, to whom I wish all success in his new profession. He is himself a young gentleman of talents, and his Sir John Chiverton is a spirited and romantic performance" Blackwood's Magazine (April 1827) in Noctes Ambrosianae, ed. Mackenzie (1854) 2:363.

Robert Shelton Mackenzie: "Mr. W. H. Ainsworth (who was married to a daughter of Mr. Ebers, a fashionable London publisher) commenced life as a bibliopole. In 1826, when he was only twenty-one, he published Sir John Chiverton, a romance in one volume, which appeared anonymously. It was read by Scott, while on a tour in the October of that year, and noted in his diary as 'a clever book, — in imitation of the days of chivalry.' His next book (Rookwood) did not appear until 1834" Noctes Ambrosianae, ed. Mackenzie (1854) 2:363-64n.

S. M. Ellis: "Further conclusive evidence [of Ainsworth's authorship of Sir John Chiverton] is furnished by the Dedicatory Stanzas prefixed to the romance. These were addressed to Fanny Ebers — Ainsworth's future wife — with whom he was deeply in love, and display a power of passionate expression of no mean order. The verses seem to indicate that he still regarded himself as destined for the law, and that his days of romance-writing were over!" W. H. Ainsworth (1911) 1:142.

The lines addressed to the author in Ainsworth's first volume, Poems by Cheviot Ticheburn (1822) appear to be Spenserians (to judge from a truncated quotation in Ellis) and may be by Ainsworth's early friend George Croly.



When last we parted, Lady, 'twas in tears;
Thy cheek was dimmed with sorrow's trickling dew,
And from my heart the grief of many years,
Hoarded 'till nigh forgotten, burst anew,
Sad offerings to love and memory true.
Shall ever memory faint, or love be cold?
Ah, no! that cheek may lose its breathing hue,
And those dear eyes their living beams withhold,
But love shall still endure, with faith unknown, untold.

Accept the tribute that to thee I bring,
(It is the first, and it will be the last,)
The leisure fruit of fancy's wandering:
But fancy rules no more — her sway is past,
And into other paths my course is cast:
Me now no more shall fiction's dreams beguile;
Their hues like fading rainbows vanish fast;—
My feet shall tread in ways of drearier toil,
And fiction hide her wreath, and poesy her smile.

Yet, if to me a loftier lyre were given,
And round my harp were twined a brighter wreath,—
If I could snatch immortal verse from heaven,
And pour its melody to souls beneath,—
It may be that I would not cease to breathe
Thy name in accents love should make divine,
And round thy beauteous brows a band enwreath,
A garland bright, whose flower should brightly shine,
More lovely, and more bright, when sunned by smiles of thine.

My Lady Love! am I not far from thee?—
Far, far away — but soon again we meet;
Ye moments swift, oh, yet more swiftly flee,
Ye slower hours, away on winged feet;
Waft me, oh, waft me upon pinions fleet,
Give me again my vows of love to tell,
Steal fond approval from her blushes sweet,
Adore her flowing cheek and bosom's swell,
And win the silent thoughts, that in that bosom dwell.

[Literary Gazette (8 July 1826) 422]