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When we first sat down to a perusal of Anna Seward's letters, we were sorely tempted to make an amusing collection of her foolish praises of small poets now forgotten, and to expose many of her defects of style; but as we proceeded in our task, we were so much touched with her amiable personal qualities, and so much pleased with the better parts of her correspondence, that “a change came over the spirit of our dream,” and we were determined to dwell only on the favorable side of her character. Nothing can be more interesting than some of the domestic allusions in these letters. It appears that she waited upon her old bedridden father with the same profound and ever-watchful tenderness
with which Pope attended upon his mother,
“And rocked the cradle of reposing age.”
Such glaring colours, however, catch the vulgar eye. The crowd are enraptured with these glittering effects, in which they think that nature is not exaggerated but surpassed. The language of Pizarro is neither verse nor prose. It reminds us of Dr. Johnson's censure of blank-verse; “lf it be not tumid and gorgeous,” said he, “it is crippled prose.” Sheridan, though eschewing blank-verse for an equivocal measure of his own invention, has contrived in this tragedy to combine all the faults attributed by the critic to the unrhymed heroic metre. The style is not only inflated and gaudy, but it limps into the bargain. It is not quite fair to expect much, even from the best actors, when this strange piece is brought upon the stage; in the performance of such a play actors are of little importance. They merely add by their presence to the general effect of the spectacle. “Now,” says Puff in the Critic, “now, for my magnificence, my noise, and my procession '" “The play stands still ; damn action and discourse; Back fly the scenes, and enter foot and horse.” This couplet of Pope's seems to have been suggested by a passage in the Rehearsal. “The plot stands still,” says Smith. “Why, what in the world is a plot good for,” replies Bayes, “but to bring in fine things to In the theatrical exhibition of Pizarro the tailor and the actor seem to divide the public admiration. “Such was the shout, the long-applauding note
At Quin's high plume, or Oldfield's petticoat.
# # + # # o:
Such instances of domestic virtue in the literary character should always be duly recorded, for they double its attractions. If the sentimental Sterne “loved a dead ass better than a living mother,” it is gratifying to be able to turn to instances of imaginative minds connected with tender hearts, of spirits who are not the less capable of practical kindness and home-emotions because they occasionally sympathize with beautiful abstractions or soar into a visionary world.
Miss Seward forms a kind of link in literary history between the last generation and the present. She was personally acquainted with Dr. Johnson and Boswell, with Dr. Darwin and Hayley, with Dr. Parr and Sir Walter Scott and Robert Southey.
SONNET-AN ENGLISH LANDSCAPE.
The land ne'er smiled beneath a lovelier day,
May this worn heart here taste luxurious leisure.
I. We weep and tremble at the doom— The dreadful doom of death; 'Tis sad amidst the fair earth's bloom To yield this mortal breath ! The brave may sternly bear the pain That soon must pass away, But oh! to think that ne'er again Dear friends with eager hands shall greet, Or fond hearts share Love's converse sweet, O'erwhelms us with dismay ! II. 'Tis true that trusting faith is told Of worlds beyond the sky, And few there are so blind or bold As dare such creed deny; It is not that an after-state, Or dark or doubtful seems; Alas! we shrink from future fate, Because we may not brook the thought That hours with Life's endearments fraught
Are unreturning dreams!
III. We find each mortal bliss alloyed, Each smile foretels a tear, But still the breast would soon be cloyed That never felt a fear;-The beauty of the brightest beam Is deepened by the shade— Fairest the stars in darkness gleam— The broad red sun of even-tide Assumes a more imposing pride, In floating clouds arrayed. IV. Perfection hath not reigned on earth, Nor ruled the human mind; We pant not for diviner worth, Nor raptures more refined; A mortal weakness makes us cling To mortal forms alone. We feel we cannot coldly fling On Lethe's dark insatiate stream The charms of Life's familiar dream, And turn to scenes unknown. W. 'Tis this that fills the final hour With mournfulness and dread; Love's tender ties and friendship's power Avail not with the dead! And though we meet to part no more, We may not meet the same; The things that linked our hearts of yore Are chains that Death's cold hand divides, For nought in holier realms abides Of this terrestrial frame.
No features loved below !
WHEN gentle Twilight floateth o'er the scene
Of morning birds, all these enchantments fade.