Reviews of Poems and Translations
Poems and Translations from the Minor Greek Poets and others: written chiefly between the Ages of Ten and Sixteen, by a Lady. Dedicated, by Permission, to her Royal Highness the Princess Charlotte of Wales. 1 vol. 12mo. pp. 163. Asperne, &c. 1809.
Poems and Translations written by a lady between the ages of ten and sixteen! But how? With genius, taste, elegance, and fidelity. Of what use, then, Mr. Reviewer, are schools and colleges; since your sex, men of gravity and wisdom, who have wasted thousands of candles in their lucubrations, are foiled at their own weapons (i.e. grey goose-quills) by a young female who has scarcely yet had time to look round in the world? But
Whose beautiful stanzas and sweet flowing numbers
Will wake all our sages from classical slumbers;
And shew them translations with elegance writ,
With taste truly attic, and masculine wit;
Or bring them acquainted with Nature’s wide scenes,
Display’d by the pen of a Muse in her teens.
Her love-strains she caught from that versatile elf
Young Cupid: her beauties she drew from herself.
Proceed, charming songstress, our senses enchant,
For your genus e'en glows in an “icicled plant.”
These are suggestions and queries that have offered themselves to us, which, though we can neither account for nor answer, we unquestionably approve of. The translations and poems are certainly some of the most extraordinary exertions of the human mind that ever came within the scope of our observation, if we consider the very early period of the life of the writer, whose genius seems to have burst at once into meridian splendor; still it was not only genius that was requisite to form one part of this work, the translations, but labour, care, attention, and memory; all in the first stages of existence, upon the wing, and ready to be dissipated every moment. Yet has our fair authoress contrived to condense those volatile qualities in a manner that, it we choose to indulge in comparative criticism, would make some of our learned friends, whose names it would be invidious to mention, “hide their diminished heads;” but having said so much of her, it is time to hear what she says of herself: when we shall resume the pleasing subject. “The translations, or imitations of the minor Greek poets were the productions of a still earlier age” (than betwixt eleven and sixteen). “A most induigent father, in the retirement permitted by his station in the church, found aunusement in familiarising his only child with the poets of antiquity;” the effects of which education are so conspicuous in this volume. It may here be proper to state, that this young lady is the authoress of those elegant verses in commemoration of the anniversary of “the Refuge for the Destitute,” which we inserted in our last number. We also learn that she passed the early part of her life at the village of Gatehouse, of Fleet Galloway, Scotland, noted for the extensive cotton works of a near relation, and commanding a view of the beautiful and extensive pleasure grounds, elegant mansion, and gardens of Broughton Murray, Esq.
It was in this enchanting retreat that she composed most of her poems. Here she pursued her studies under the guidance of the rector of Shirbeck, of her uncle, and of her French tutor, Mr. Cramozin, of Rouen; she, it appears, applied herself with great diligence, stimulated by all the ardour of genius, to classical disquisitions. Of her proficiency in the languages her translations are the best proofs; but still her favourite pursuits were painting and music. In both these sciences she acquired much excellence; her productions in the one, and her skill in the other have been much admired and acknowledged by the most eminent connoiseurs and exquisite judges; in short, her talents are of a very superior order: but as it is only with respect to her poetical compositions that we have any observations to make at present, we shall close our commendations of those with two specimens, which, though short, will serve to shew that we have not exaggerated in our remarks.
ON A VIEW OF THE FLEET, NEAR GATEHOUSE.
Sweet stream, I envy not thy calm repose,
Nor those aspiring hills which round thee rise,
Nor the rich sweets thy painted side bestows,
Nor the soft azure of thy placid skies.
For here the sun, with purer lustre glows,
On sky-crown’d hills, and vallies cloth’d in gold;
Imperial Thame through nobler channels flows,
Where pleasure’s sons their gayest revels hold.
I ask thee for the joys which fancy gave,
When by thy side a careless guest I stray’d
With kindred hearts, now mould’ring in the grave,
When life’s bright morning never knew a shade;
Joys which no airy revels can restore,
The joys of youthful hope and friendships now no more.
Life’s early dawn is past, but not yet past
Is the rich dream which wing’d the envied hours;
Still in my bosom bloom the balmy flowers,
By frolic Hope on Fancy’s cradle cast.
Life’s dawn is fled; but still the source remains
Of mild delights not spent, tho’ long enjoy’d;
Still glides the year, in social cares employ’d,
While Hope, sweet Hope! repays its gentle pains.
Thou too art present still!—ah, still be near!
Teach me, like thee, the silver cord to twine
Round kindred bosoms, and the smooth decline
Of sacred age with willing duty cheer.
And if our spirits meet in heav’nly bow’rs,
Still may such blissful tasks, such precious care be ours.
The European Magazine. Vol 55, February 1809, p. 140.
Poems and Translations from the Minor Greek Poets and others: written chiefly between the Ages of Ten and Sixteen, by a Lady. Dedicated, by Permission, to her Royal Highness the Princess Charlotte of Wales. 1 vol. 12mo. Second edition.
It is with much greater pleasure than surprise that we observe these truly elegant effusions have, in the course of a very few months, arrived at a second edition, improved in its arrangement, enlarged in its contents, and adorned not only by the elegant pen, but by the equally elegant pencil, of the fair authoress, with a design which would have done honour to the taste and genius of our late graphic favourite, Angelica Kauffman. Richardson, in endeavouring to describe a peculiar manner that characterises a very lovely woman, makes use of a term which, though unauthorized, appears to us extremely expressive: he says, that femality pervaded every word and action; by which we presume he meant, that every thing attached to her seemed to emanate from sexual grace and delicacy. We carry this idea still further than the English author did, or even the learned Dr. Chalmers does, with respect to his description of a Greek beauty, and only regarding the figure and drapery as the habitation and clothing of the soul, look into the Athenian mind. Respecting this, and that of our fair authoress, we could make a classical comparison, but that the character to which, in point of literature, we should allude, is not in other considerations to be mentioned in the same page. When the Rev. Francis Fawkes first published his translation of Anacreon, Sappho, Bion, Moschus, and Musæus, and subsequently Theocritus, he was by the learned deemed to have very elegantly accomplished a very difficult task. What the learned say to this task having, in some of its principal parts, been in a superior manner performed by a young lady betwixt the ages of ten and sixteen, is very easily conceived. If “the tall lean doctor,” as Mr. F. describes himself, were living (though from his liberality of sentiment we know he would have adored his literary rival), we verily believe he would have thrown by his pen.
With respect to the original poems (which, with those added, form by far the largest part of this collection), having already stated our opinion of their general excellence, we can only (within our contracted limits) refer to that opinion; though indeed with still greater confidence, because it is now authorized and established by the public.
- Vide Vol. LV. p. 140.↩
- It will be observed by many, that the design upon the title page of this work is very much in the manner of this celebrated paintress, whose pencil was guided by sensibility and taste; the Cupid gathering roses, the love upon the lyre; and indeed the whole composition displays the emanations of classical ideas aud graphic genius.↩