1797
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

[Lines, in imitation of Spencer.]

Walsingham: or, the Pupil of Nature. A Domestic Story. By Mary Robinson. 4 vols.

Mary Robinson


Five Spenserians, printed in Mary Robinson's novel. The title is adapted from the headnote in the Whithall Evening Post; it is quite apparent that the object of imitation in this verse character of a child poet is James Beattie's The Minstrel: "With ebon locks unkempt and mean attire, | A mountain weather-beaten wight was I; | And passing meek, save when resentful ire | Bade from my glance the living light'nings fly, | To think that vice should virtue's place supply." The poem does not appear with Robinson's collected verse. Not seen.

Monthly Review: "Although this is a long story, we have read the greater part of it with a degree of interest which we do not generally feel in the perusal of novels. In the first volume particularly, our curiosity was very agreeably arrested by the instructive manner in which Walsingham relates his story; the language is generally correct, and sometimes elegant; and the sentiments, though not in every instance perhaps above exception, are yet calculated to excite a spirit of thought and inquiry concerning objects on which it behoves man to think and to determine" NS 26 (August 1798) 441-42.

Critical Review: "Sir Edward Aubrey, who is killed by a fall from his horse during the pregnancy of lady Aubrey, leaves the greater part of his fortune to the child, it is should be a son, but, if a daughter, a smaller proportion of it. In either case, provision was to made for his nephew Walsingham, the hero of the piece. The offspring proved to be a female; and lady Aubrey, at the instigation of an old servant of the family (who was interested in the affair), conceals the will, and educates the child in the disguise of a boy, under the name of Sidney. After a variety of adventures, she discloses the whole of her former conduct; and Walsingham is married to his cousin Sidney" NS 22 (Appendix, 1798) 553-53.



Ne wealth had I; ne garland of renown;
Slow pass'd the minutes through the livelong day,
Till from the upland mead, and thistled down,
I watch'd the sun's last lustre steal away.
And if perchance my little heart was gay,
It beat to hear some merry minstrel's note,
Or goat herd, carolling his roundelay
On craggy cliff; while, from the linnet's throat,
Full many a winding hill on airy wings would float.

For oft, upon the brow of mountain steep,
As slow the landscape faded from my view,
With devious step I wander'd far to weep,
While all around the sultry vapours flew,
Heedless of with'ring bolt, or drizzly dew,
And, as the giant shadows vanquish'd day,
Veiling the woodland dell in dusky hue,
By the small tinkling sheep-bell would I stray,
And, like to Elfin ghost, bemoan the hours away.

Or, when the wint'ry moon, with crystal eye,
Above the promontory bleak 'gan sail,
Shrouding her modest brow in amber sky,
While shrill the night-breeze whistl'd o'er the vale;
Oft did I pour my melancholy tale,
By some clear shallow stream, that wander'd slow,
Listless and weary, indolent and pale,
My bosom swelling high with bitter woe;
Which none but luckless wight with tender heart can know.

And oft to other's plaints did I give heed,
For all that griev'd my bosom learnt to sigh;
I could not see the fleecy victim bleed,
Ne snare the freeborn tenant of the sky;
Nor lesser wight should fall when I stood by;
For vile oppression rous'd my little rage;
In combat fierce the younker to defy,
I would with breathless ire my limbs engage,
While neither threats nor pain my anger could assuage.

With ebon locks unkempt and mean attire,
A mountain weather-beaten wight was I;
And passing meek, save when resentful ire
Bade from my glance the living light'nings fly,
To think that vice should virtue's place supply:
For though no classic knowledge grac'd my mind,
From legends old, or feats of chivalry,
Still round my heart, the wond'rous instinct twin'd,
Which throbb'd thro' ev'ry vein, the love of human kind.

[Whitehall Evening Post (7 December 1797)]