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There was nothing that Miss Taylor more entirely disliked than the character of a literary lady. Publicity she shrunk from, and affectation of all kinds she despised. Surrounded with those who knew only that she was-Miss Taylor,' she sighed, she says in one letter, for a renewal of intercourse with those who knew her only as Jane. At another time, she writes :
• I shall be severely punished indeed for having made Egotism the subject of my “ Rhymes," if it should influence any of my
friends to refrain from those communications on which the interest of a friendly correspondence entirely depends. In truth, I have found it one of the inconveniences attendant upon making one's opinions public, (and I assure you, these inconveniences are not few,) that others are apt to suppose one is always on the watch for those failings that have been censured, or that the censure or raillery was directed against some individual. I assure you, it is much more from a knowledge of my own heart, than from observation on the failings of others, that I have been impelled to write on the subjects I have chosen.'
Acknowledging the generous and candid praise' bestowed upon one of her publications by an esteemed correspondent,
• I do assure you, that the sensible and sincerely expressed approbation of the friends I love, is far more gratifying to me than that of a world of strangers ; and from you I feel especially pleased to receive this approbation ; because the book contains some lines with which you must be so far from pleased, that nothing but genuine liberality could enable you to judge favourably of the remainder. I would that my spirit were as catholic as yours.'
These extracts, however, will give no idea, we perceive, of that playful spirit by which a large proportion of the letters are animated, especially those addressed to the correspondent who is distinguished by the initials S. L. C. One of the most pleasing features in these letters is the entire change of style, the marked variation of key, which distinguishes the whole series of correspondence with one friend, from the letters addressed to another. Those which we refer to, are in general characterized by a sort of sportive familiarity of intercourse, while the correspondence with Miss E. F. is of a totally different cast, almost uniformly serious, less unconstrained, but breathing a spirit of earnest affection. Without attempting to discriminate the shades of difference in the other parts of the correspondence, it is, we think, impossible not to perceive, as in Cowper's Letters, something of the character of the friend addressed, reflected in the varying style of the Writer. We shall insert a specimen of Miss Taylor's lighter style.
< To Miss S. L. C.
*** In truth Jane Taylor of the morning, and Jane Taylor of the evening, are as different people in their feelings and sentiments as two such intimate friends can possibly be. The former is an active handy little body, who can make beds or do plain work, and now and then takes a fancy to drawing, &c. But the last mentioned lady never troubles her head with tliese menial affairs,-nothing will suit her but the pen; and though she does nothing very extraordinary in that way, yet, she so far surpasses the first-named gentlewoman, that any one who had received a letter from both, would immediately distinguish between the two by the difference of the style. But to drop this ingenious allegory, I assure you it represents the truth, and I am pretty well determined not again to attempt letter writing before breakfast. For really I am a mere machine the most stupid and dronish creature you can imagine, at this time. The unsentiinental realities of breakfast may claim some merit in restoring my mental faculties; but its effects are far surpassed by the evening's tea. After that comfortable, social, invigorating meal
, I am myself, and begin to think the world a pleasanter place, and my friends more agreeable people, and (entre nous) myself a much more respectable personage, than they have seemed during the day; so that by eight o'clock, I am just worked up to a proper state of mind for writing. If you are liable to these changing frames, you will not only excuse and feel for me, but heartily acquiesce in my resolution of now putting down the pen till the evening.
• It is now indeed evening, and several days have passed since I wrote the foregoing; and I do assure you that nothing but the fear of being unable to fill another sheet in time for my father's departure, should prevail with me to send you
so much nonsense. I often reproach myself for writing such trifling letters; but it is so easy to trifle, and so hard to write what may be worth reading, that it is a sad temptation not to attempt it.' The following is to a different Correspondent.
**. What a pity it is that language should be so much abused, that what is really meant requires to be printed in italics! Of this, the poet has most reason to complain. He feels, and perhaps his whole soul is filled with a passage which ninety-nine of his hundred readers, at least, will peruse without emotion. This struck me in reading the first line of Thalaba—" How beautiful is night !” which may be read without leaving the smallest impression. I read it so at first ; but returning to it, and endeavouring to enter into the feel. ing with which it was written, I found it to be-“ How beautiful is night!" and I discovered in these simple words all those inexpressible emotions with which I so often contemplate the dark blue depths, and of which even Southey could say nothing more striking than“ How beautiful is night!")
We shall make room for one more specimen of the Letters, which will form an appropriate introduction to a notice of the poetical remains.
* "I am not forgetful of the kindness which prompted you to speak a word of cheer to a fainting muse...... ..... As a source of harmless, perhaps even salutary pleasure to myself, I would not totally despise or check the poetical talent, such as it is ; but it would be difficult to convince me that the world would have been any loser had I never written verses, such I mean as were composed solely for my own pleasure. I do, however, set a much higher value on that poetical taste, or rather feeling, so far as I have it, which is quite distinct from the capability of writing verse, and also from what is generally understood when people say, they are very fond of poetry. But while I desire ever to cherish the poetic taste, I own it appears to me to be as little my duty as my interest to cultivate the talent for poetry. With different sentiments 1 am compelled to regard my own share in what we have published for children ;-the possibility of their fulfilling in any degree the end desired, gives them importance, and renders future attempts of a similar kind a matter more of duty than of choice. I dare not admit all the encouraging considerations you have suggested; nor can I fully explain what I feel on this subject. That “ such reflections are not of a nature to inspire vanity,” is true indeed. No; I desire to be humbled by the thought: a consciousness of unworthiness makes it hard for me to indulge the hope of being rendered instrumental of the smallest good.'
After the conviction of possessing a poetical talent that might be rendered useful to others, had at length been forced upon her, Miss Taylor very rarely, we are told, indulged in composition, as she had been wont to do, merely for her own gratification. • The Poetical Remains' contain, however, some few exceptions to this remark, and these express feelings of a much higher order than such as were familiar to her in early life. The earlier poems, those especially which are here reprinted from the “ Associate Minstrels, ” • exhibit the tender playfulness of her fancy and the warmth of her heart; but the vigour she afterwards displayed, had not then been roused. Yet, she has since writien nothing more characteristic of herself, or perhaps more beautiful, than the “ Remonstrance to Time.” In this piece, in the Birthday Retrospect, and in one or two of the pieces which will be found among the Remains, she has given the portrait of her own mind with so much truth and life, that those who knew her seem to see and converse with her while perusing them. To portray itself, her mind needed only the mild excitement of her habitual feelings ; but, to display its force, it required the stimulus of the strongest extraneous motives. The productions of her pen under these different impulses are widely dissimilar, and perhaps will hardly both please the same reader.'
The following poetical epistle exhibits that mixture of
pensiveness and playfulness which was evidently constitutional in the Writer, and at the same time shews that she was not unconscious of a bias to the sombre.
· TO MRS. L.
« 'Tis not that when our course was plann'd,
and all the while
• If in the depth of nature's laws
Care too distrustful, I confess;
And hope shall glitter through a tear.' The longest and most earnest effort at poetical composition among the Remains, is a fragment which, by its strong, nervous versification and dark colouring, will inevitably remind the reader of Crabbe. The history of the poem is this. The wild and romantic scenery of the northern coast of Devonshire had 'filled Jane's imagination,'--and one spot in particular was her favourite walk, on which she fixed as the scene of a his• tory which floated in her mind for three or four years; but no
more than what is now published was ever committed to paper.'
'Mid scatter'd rocks, on Devon's northern sea,
Well he explor'd each smoothly hollow'd cave,