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eration of favourite poets, the Darwins, the Hayleys, the Sewards. Who reads them now? If, however, I have not the verdict of posterity to bear me out in bestowing the most unqualified praises on their immediate successors, it is also to be remembered that neither does it warrant me in condemning them. Indeed, it was not my wish to go into this ungrateful part of the subject; but something of the sort is expected from me, and I must run the gauntlet as well as I can. Another circumstance that adds to the difficulty of doing justice to all parties is, that I happen to have had a personal acquaintance with some of these jealous votaries of the Muses; and that is not the likeliest way to imbibe a high opinion of the rest. Poets do not praise one another in the language of hyperbole. I am afraid, therefore, that I labour under a degree of prejudice against some of the most popular poets of the day, from an early habit of deference to the critical opinions of some of the least popular. I cannot say that I ever learnt much about Shakspeare or Milton, Spenser or Chaucer, from these professed guides; for I never heard them say much about them. They were always talking of themselves and one another. Nor am I certain that this sort of personal intercourse with living authors,


while it takes away all real relish or freedom of opinion with regard to their contemporaries, greatly enhances our respect for themselves. Poets are not ideal beings, but have their prose sides, like the commonest of the people. We often hear persons say, what they would have given to have seen Shakspeare. For my

part, I would give a great deal not to have seen him, at least, if he was at all like anybody else

that I have ever seen.

for his works are not.

But why should he?

This is doubtless one

great advantage which the dead have over the living. It is always fortunate for ourselves and others when we are prevented from exchanging admiration for knowledge. The splendid vision that in youth haunts our idea of the poetical character, fades upon acquaintance into the light of common day, as the azure tints that deck the mountain's brow are lost on a nearer approach to them. It is well, according to the moral of one of the Lyrical Ballads,' 'to leave Yarrow unvisited.' But to leave this 'facemaking,' and begin.

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I am a great admirer of the female writers of the present day; they appear to me like so many modern Muses. I could be in love with Mrs. Inchbald, romantic with Mrs. Radcliffe, and sarcastic with Madame d'Arblay; but they

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are novel-writers, and, like Audrey, may thank the gods for not having made them poetical.' Did any one here ever read Mrs. Leicester's School? If they have not, I wish they would; there will be just time before the next three volumes of the Tales of my Landlord' come That is not a school of affectation, but of humanity. No one can think too highly of the work, or highly enough of the author.

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The first poetess I can recollect is Mrs. Barbauld, with whose works I became acquainted before those of any other author, male or female, when I was learning to spell words of one syllable in her story-books for children. I became acquainted with her poetical works long after in Enfield's 'Speaker,' and remember being much divided in my opinion at that time between her Ode to Spring and Collins's Ode to Evening. I wish I could repay my childish. debt of gratitude in terms of appropriate praise. She is a very pretty poetess; and, to my fancy, strews the flowers of poetry most agreeably round the borders of religious controversy. She is a neat and pointed prose-writer. Her 'Thoughts on the Inconsistency of Human Ex

1 A series of Tales for Children, by Miss Lamb, assisted by her brother Charles. The first edition appeared in 1808. ED.

pectations,' is one of the most ingenious and sensible essays in the language. There is the same idea in one of Barrow's sermons.

Mrs. Hannah More is another celebrated modern poetess, and I believe still living. She has written a great deal which I have never read.

Miss Baillie must make up this trio of female poets. Her tragedies and comedies, one of each to illustrate each of the passions separately from the rest, are heresies in the dramatic art. She is a Unitarian in poetry. With her the passions are, like the French republic, one and indivisible; they are not so in Nature, or in Shakspeare. Mr. Southey has, I believe, somewhere expressed an opinion that the 'Basil' of Miss Baillie is superior to Romeo and Juliet.' I shall not stay to contradict him. On the other hand, I prefer her 'De Montfort,' which was condemned on the stage, to some later tragedies, which have been more fortunate, -to the 'Remorse,' ' Bertram,' and, lastly, 'Fazio.' There is in the chief character of that play a nerve, a continued unity of interest, a setness of purpose and precision of outline, which John Kemble alone was capable of giving; and there is all the grace which women have in writing. In saying that De Montfort was a

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character which just suited Mr. Kemble, I mean to pay a compliment to both. He was not a man of no mark or likelihood;' and what he could be supposed to do particularly well, must have a meaning in it. As to the other tragedies just mentioned, there is no reason why any common actor should not 'make mouths in them at the invisible event,'

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one as well as another. Having thus expressed my sense of the merits of this authoress, I must add that her comedy of the Election,' performed last summer [1817] at the Lyceum with indifferent success, appears to me the perfection of baby-house theatricals. Everything in it has such a do-me-good air, is so insipid and amiable. Virtue seems such a pretty playing at make-believe, and vice is such a naughty word. It is a theory of some French author that little girls ought not to be suffered to have dolls to play with, to call them 'pretty dears,' to admire their black eyes and cherry cheeks, to lament and bewail over them if they fall down and hurt their faces, to praise them when they are good, and scold them when they are naughty. It is a school of affectation; Miss Baillie has profited of it. She treats her grown men and women as little girls treat their dolls, makes moral puppets of them, pulls the wires, and they talk virtue

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