1790
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To a Friend.

Poems by Lady Manners.

Lady Catherine Rebecca Manners


Eight anapestic ballad quatrains "Written in M DCC XC." Lady Manners adapts the advice-poem to the pastoral ballad mode by substituting an audience of one for the usual address to the swains and shepherdesses. In so doing, she works an interesting twist on the pastoral ballad, which conventionally is concerned with an impoverished shepherd jilted by a high-born or socially ambitious lover. Here Lady Manners warns just such a woman against the designs of ruthless swains: "But, dearest Lamira, may you never prove | With humiliation this truth: | That interest governs their actions, not love, | That your gold has more charms than your youth!" Not seen.

In this genre, compare "To a young Friend, who in early life was thrown into a dangerous Society" by Elizabeth Trefusis (1800 ca.), "To a Friend" by Anna Laetitia Barbauld (1800 ca.) and Anna Seward's "To Miss Catherine Mallet" (1805). All of these poems are in Spenserian stanzas.

Gentleman's Magazine: "The sourest critick, on sight of this volume, would feel his acrimony gradually evaporate; and we were not a little pleased when we found, on perusing its contents, that our complacent propensities were justified by our severer judgment. Lady Manners, we are given to understand, is a native of Ireland; and it is no small credit to her husband, who is the son of Mr. and Lady Louisa Manners, that, disregarding all consideration of fortune and of birth, he was captivated by her mental worth and accomplishments. We scorn to seek for trifling inaccuracies in a collection of poems which communicate the most amiable sentiments in melodious verse. We may safely recommend it to readers of every description.... The work, altogether, affords a most splendid proof of the fabrick of our paper, the excellence of our types, and the skill of our printers;and does the highest credit to Mr. Bell of the Strand, under whose inspection it was executed" 63 (August 1793) 745.

La Belle Assemblee: "It is many years since Lady Manners first distinguished herself in a poetical publication of considerable repute. She was deemed by many as no unworthy competitor with Mrs. Robinson, the legitimate successor of the lyre of Sappho; and it must be confessed, that if the former excelled her in sentiment and passion, she was perhaps inferior to her in fancy and polished versification" 7 (November 1809) 167.



Ah, say not, young Shepherdess, I am to blame,
When I tell you the swains are untrue;
Nor think that each youth is possess'd of a flame
Who swears he's devoted to you.

The artful Lysander, his love is exprest
In accents so winningly sweet,
As might tempt the fleet moments delighted to rest
Inactive, their pleasure-wing'd feet.

Gay Damon will tell you, though splendid the sun,
'Tis not half so brilliant as you;
And thus in a strain of high compliments run,
Perhaps not a syllable true.

Aricius walks stately and proud o'er the plain,
In the mirror his image he'll view;
But when you appear, even Aricius the vain
Enraptur'd kneels captive to you.

But, dearest Lamira, may you never prove
With humiliation this truth:
That interest governs their actions, not love,
That your gold has more charms than your youth!

In vain lavish Nature had spread o'er your cheek
Those roses unsullied by Art;
In vain from your eyes sprightly Genius might speak
The thoughts that ennoble your heart—

Had not Fortune, indulgent, embellish'd each grace
With varnish that never can fade;
Whose lustre, when wrinkles shall alter your face,
Shall throw a new light o'er the shade.

Enough of the youths of Arcadia I've told,
Nor further intend to advise;
Lamira may fancy my censures too bold,
But my pen paints the heart, not the eyes.

[(1794) 124-26]