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CHAPTER VIII.

THE POETESSES.

A.D. 1700-1725.

Lady Chudleigh - Mary Monk — The Countess of Winchelsea - De La

Rivière Manley,

“But true it is, the generous mind,

By candour swayed, by taste refined,
Will nought but vice disdain ;
Nor will the breast where fancy glows
Deem every flower a weed that blows
Amid the desert plain."-SHENSTONE.

MARY LADY CHUDLEIGH. Mary, daughter of Richard Lee, Esq., of Winslade, in the county of Devon, was born in the year 1656 ; she married Sir George Chudleigh, Bart., of Ashton, in the same county, and died in 1710. Her published works were • The Ladies' Defence ;' Poems on several Occasions,' of which the third edition appeared in 1722; and · Essays upon several Subjects in Prose and Verse,' 1710. She left in manuscript two tragedies, two operas, a masque, a Versified Paraphrase of Lucian's Dialogues, and other pieces, none worthy of quotation.

MRS. MONK. Mary, second daughter of Robert Molesworth, who long filled the office of English ambassador at the court of Denmark, and was created a viscount in 1716, became the

wife of George Monk, Esq., and died in the flower of her age in 1715. Her poems were published in the following year, with a dedication from her father's pen to Caroline, Princess of Wales. The title of the volume is · Marinda, Poems and Translations upon several occasions.' Lord Molesworth introduces its contents with the following remarkable paragrapb:

“Most of them are the product of the leisure hours of a young gentlewoman lately dead, who, in a remote country retirement, without any assistance but that of a good library, and without omitting the daily care due to a large family, not only perfectly acquired the several languages here made use of, but the good morals and principles contained in those books, so as to put them in practice, as well during her life and languishing sickness as at the hour of her death ; in short, she died not only like a Christian, but a Roman lady, and so became at once the object of the grief and comfort of her relations. As much as I am obliged to be sparing in commending what belongs to me, I cannot forbear thinking some of these circumstances uncommon enough to be taken notice of. I loved her more because she deserved it than because she was mine, and I cannot do greater honour to her memory than by consecrating her labours, or rather her diversions, to your Royal Highness, as we found most of them in her escritoire after her death written with her own hand; little expecting, and as little desiring, the public should have an opportunity either of applauding or condemning them.” *

Many of her pieces are translations from the Italian of Tasso, Petrarch, and Guarini, and a few from Spanish authors. Her original poems are most of them sullied by the vicious habits of her time, which so obscured the moral

* Ballard, p. 289.

perceptions even of the pure in heart as to permit the familiar use of indelicate allusions. The lines addressed to her husband from her death-bed at Bath, fully justify, however, her father's tender encomium :

“Thou, who dost all my worldly thoughts employ,

Thou pleasing source of all my earthly joy ;
Thou tenderest husband and thou dearest friend,
To thee this first, this last adieu I send.
At length, the conqueror death asserts his right,
And will for ever veil me from thy sight,
He woos me to him with a cheerful grace,
And not one terror clouds his meagre face :
He promises a lasting rest from pain,
And shows that all life's fleeting joys are vain :
The eternal scenes of heaven he sets in view,
And tells me that no other joys are true.
But love, fond love, would yet resist his power,
Would fain awhile defer the parting hour.
He brings thy mourning image to my eyes,
And would obstruct my journey to the skies.
But say, thou dearest, thou unwearied friend,
Say, should'st thou grieve to see my sorrows end ?
Thou know'st a painful pilgrimage I've passed,
And should'st thou grieve that rest is come at last ?
Rather rejoice to see me shake off life,
And die, as I have lived, thy faithful wife !"

ANNE COUNTESS OF WINCHELSEA. Anne, daughter of Sir William Kingsmill, Knight, of Sidmonton, in the county of Southampton, became Maidof-Honour to Mary of Modena, when Duchess of York. Neither the year of her birth, nor that of her Court appointment, nor that of her marriage with the Hon. Heneage Finch, are recorded by her biographer. The appointment must have been in or after 1673, the year of Mary of Modena's marriage. The Hon. Heneage Finch is distinctly stated by Ballard, on the authority of The General Dictionary,' “ to have been in his father's lifetime Gentleman of the Bedchamber to the Duke of York.” Heneage, second Earl of Winchelsea, died in 1689; but King Charles II.'s decease, in 1685, having raised his brother James to the throne, it would appear, by the strict limitation of terms, that Mr. and Mrs. Finch had resigned their places at that conjuncture. In 1712 the Hon. Heneage Finch succeeded his nephew in the family title, and became fourth Earl of Winchelsea. His Countess published, in 1713, an octavo volume entitled “Miscellaneous Poems on several Occasions, written by a Lady. Several of her pieces appeared in the fashionable collections of the period : others are believed to remain still unpublished. She died August 5, 1720, leaving no children. The Earl, her widower, died in 1726. Her verses on The Spleen’are very poor, and ill deserve the praise lavished on them by contemporary flatterers. Her answer to half a dozen rhymed couplets, “occasioned by four verses in The Rape of the Lock,'” is sharp-witted and adroit, but pert and unpleasing. Her celebrated Apologue of “The Atheist and the Acorn,' doubtless did good service in its day. It is also remarkable for having suggested to Hannah More another Apologue called “The Two Gardeners,' and published among the Cheap Repository Tracts :

THE ATHEIST AND THE ACORN.
“ .Methinks this world is oddly made

And every thing amiss ;'
A dull complaining Atheist said,
As stretch'd he lay beneath a shade,

And instanced in this.
* Behold,' quoth he, 'that mighty thing,

A pumpkin large and round,
Is held but by a little string,
Which upward cannot make it spring,

Nor bear it from the ground.
While on this tree a fruit, so small,

So disproportion'd grows,
That whosoe'er surveys this all,
This universal casual ball,

Its ill contrivance knows.

My better judgment would have hung

That fruit upon this tree,
And left this nut thus slightly strung,
'Mongst things that on the surface sprung,

And weak and feeble be.'
No more the caviller could say,

No further faults descry,
For upward gazing as he lay,
An acorn, loosen'd from its stay,

Fell down upon his eye.
The wounded part with tears ran o'er,

As punish'd for the sin,
Fool I had that bough a pumpkin bore,
Thy whimsies would have worked no more,

Nor skull have kept them in." Descriptive poetry can never be truly delightful, unless it is so perfectly original and so thoroughly natural as to enkindle a beholder's sensations in the reader. One borrowed phrase, one artificial interpolation, one false image, will mar the whole effect of a fine verbal picture; while the slightest discrepancy between the poet's expressions and the obvious suggestions of the scene, must inevitably excite disgust.

Any one accustomed to contemplate rural nature under the shades of night, in stillness and in solitude, must be struck with surprise and won to sympathy by the enchanting reproduction of emotions peculiar to that scene and hour in "The Nocturnal Reverie. It is thoroughly original; a living landscape redolent of sweet tranquillity, full of energy in gentlest exercise. The key-note of this most musical combination of words, thoughts, and images, seems to have been derived from Shakspeare's · Merchant of Venice,' act v., scene 1, where Lorenzo and Jessica in quiet enjoyment play upon the phrase, “In such a night.” It is most true,

“Soft stillness and the night

Become the touches of sweet harmony." Every stroke of Lady Winchelsea's description is effective;

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