Obrazy na stronie

of taste and imagination which issued from the pens of our fair country-women.

To the novels of Madame D'Arblay and Mrs. West she paid great and due encomium; but her chief favourites were Mrs. Radcliffe in Romance, and Miss Joanna Baillie in the Tragic Drama. In poetic wildness and fertility of imagination, in the power of exciting a mixed and grateful terror, in beauty of language, in richness and fidelity of description, in truth and moral tendency of character, she justly gave them a pre-eminence over their contemporaries; whilst of the intimate knowledge of the human heart, of the mastery over the passions, which Miss Baillie. displayed, she thought it no exaggeration to say that they successfully emulated the spirit and genius of Shakspeare. Of a similar opinion appears to be a living writer, who, in the field of poetic and legendary fiction, has acquired an unrivalled reputation.

-if to touch such chord be thine,

Restore the ancient tragic line,
And emulate the notes that rung
From the wild harp, which silent hung
By silver Avon's holy shore,
Till twice an hundred years roll'd o'er;
When she, the bold enchantress, came,
With fearless hand and heart on flame!

From the pale willow snatch'd the treasure,
And swept it with a kindred measure;
Till Avon's swans, while rung the grove
With Montfort's hate and Basil's love,
Awakening at the inspir'd strain

Deem'd their own Shakspeare liv'd again.*

Mrs. Carter lived to read and to enjoy the "Lay of the Last Minstrel" of this romantic bard. She was delighted with its imagery, its descriptions, and the conduct of its fable, and pronounced it one of the finest works which British genius had produced for many years.+

In the year 1791 our author had the distinguished honour of being introduced to the Queen at Lord Cremorne's house, at Chelsea. Lady Charlotte Finch and Lady Cremorne were the intimate friends of Mrs. Carter, and having, it is probable, frequently mentioned her to the Queen in terms of affectionate praise, her Majesty became desirous of seeing a character at once so

Scott's Marmion, a Tale of Flodden Field, 8vo. edit.

p. 122.

+ In imagination, description, and the delineation of feudal manners, the MARMION of Mr. Scott is equal to his prior poem; while the second and sixth cantos, and especially the sixth, are in vigour and animation, in sublime and terrific imagery, not only superior to this, but to almost every other modern poem,

celebrated and so good. The conversation which took place at this interview was mutually pleas ing to both parties, and the Queen ever after frequently and kindly enquired after Mrs. Carter, and often obliged her by the loan of German books. She received, likewise, at two subsequent periods of her life, visits from the Princess of Wales and the Duke of Cumberland, both of whom entertained the highest veneration for her virtues and her talents.

The loss of her old and valued friend Mrs. Montagu, in the year 1801, was a source of much affliction to Mrs. Carter, whose health had been for a long time declining. She had suffered a very severe attack of disease about four years be fore this event, and shortly after it she had second, which completely broke her constitution, and reduced her to a state of extreme debility. Her mental faculties, however, remained unimpaired; and even with regard to her feelings and attachments, she felt little of the coldness and apathy of old age. Contrary to what usually occurs, her benevolence and charity, if possible, increased as she journeyed towards the tomb, nor did the pressure of pain or sickness in the smallest degree interrupt the mildness and sweetness of her temper. Sure but slow symptoms of approaching dissolution were, during the close

of the year 1805, felt by herself, and perceived by her relations., Wishing, however, to see once more her London friends, she left Deal, for the metropolis on the 23d of December; and, after lingering some weeks at her lodgings in ClargesStreet, expired with perfect calmness and resignation on the morning of the nineteenth of February, 1806.

She was interred, according to her own request, with the utmost privacy, in the burial ground of Grosvenor-Chapel; where, on the stone which covers her remains, may be read the following epitaph:

"Under this stone are deposited the remains of Mrs. Elizabeth Carter, of Deal, in the County of Kent; a lady as much distinguished for piety and virtue, as for deep learning, and extensive knowledge.

[ocr errors]

She was born at Deal, December 16, 1717, and died in Clarges-Street, in this parish, sincerely lamented by her relations and numerous friends, February 19, 1806, in the eighty-ninth year of her age."

A cenotaph was also erected to her memory in the chapel of the town of Deal, and thus inscribed:


Sacred to the memory of Mrs. Elizabeth Carter, a native and inhabitant of this town, where her benevolence and virtues will be long remembered.

* She was eldest daughter of the Rev. Nicholas Carter, D.D. for upwards of fifty years Perpetual Curate of this

[blocks in formation]

Chapel, by Margaret, sole daughter and heiress of Richard Swayne, of Bere, in the County of Dorset, Esq.

In deep learning, genius, and extensive knowledge, she was equalled by few: in piety, and the practice of every christian duty, excelled by none.

[ocr errors]

She was born December 16, 1717, and died in London, February 19, 1806, and was interred there in the burial ground of Grosvenor Chapel."

With the exception of Sir William Jones, this country has probably produced no greater linguist than Mrs. Carter; to the languages that we have already enumerated as in her possession, she afterwards added the Portuguese, and no inconsiderable progress in the Arabic, of which last tongue she constructed a Dictionary for herself, that embraced many words, the import of which had been improperly stated. Her knowledge of Greek was so intimate, that Dr. Johnson, speaking of a celebrated scholar, declared that he understood Greek better than any one whom he had ever known, except Elizabeth Carter.

As a translator and a poet we have, as far as our prescribed limits would admit, taken due notice of our author. She has very lately, however, been brought before the public as an epistolary writer; a province in which, from the ample correspondence just published, she must be allowed to have greatly excelled. Her letters, in fact, which were certainly never intended for

« PoprzedniaDalej »