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A History of Nineteenth Century Literature (1780-1

And when she was only eighteen she married a Captain Hemans


whom Southey, in his inexhaustible

kindness for struggling men of letters, accepted. Many years later the Laureate wrote good-naturedly to Wynn: "I mean to read the Corn-Law Rhymer a lecture, not without some hope, that as I taught him the art of poetry I may teach him something better." The "something better" was not in Elliott's way; for he is a violent and crude thinker, with more smoke than fire in his violence, though not without generosity of feeling now and then, and with a keen admiration of the scenery--still beautiful in parts, and then exquisite--which surrounded the smoky Hades of Sheffield. He himself acknowledges the influence of Crabbe and disclaims that of Wordsworth, from which the cunning may anticipate the fact that he is deeply indebted to both. His earliest publication or at least composition, "The Vernal Walk," is said to date from the very year of the _Lyrical Ballads_, and of course owes no royalty to Wordsworth, but is in blank verse, a sort of compound of Thomson and Crabbe. "Love" (in Crabbian couplets slightly tinged with overlapping) and "The Village Patriarch" (still smacking of Crabbe in form, though irregularly arranged in rhymed decasyllables) are his chief other long poems. He tried dramas, but he is best known by his "Corn-Law Rhymes" and "Corn-Law Hymns," and deserves to be best known by a few lyrics of real beauty, and many descriptions. How a man who could write "The Wonders of the Lane" and "The Dying Boy to the Sloe Blossom" could stoop to malignant drivel about "palaced
worms," "this syllabub-throated logician," and so forth, is strange enough to understand, especially as he had no excuse of personal suffering. Even in longer poems the mystery is renewed in "They Met Again" and "Withered Wild Flowers" compared with such things as "The Ranter," though the last exhibits the author at both his best and worst. However, Elliott is entitled to the charity he did not show; and the author of such clumsy Billingsgate as "Arthur Bread-Tax Winner," "Faminton," and so forth, may be forgiven for the flashes of poetry which he exhibits. Even in his political poems they do not always desert him, and his somewhat famous Chartist (or ante-Chartist) "Battle-Song" is as right-noted as it is wrong-headed.

Sir Aubrey de Vere (1788-1846), a poet and the father of a poet still alive, was a friend and follower of Wordsworth, and the author of sonnets good in the Wordsworthian kind. But he cannot be spared much room here; nor can much even be given to the mild shade of a poetess far more famous in her day than he. "Time that breaks all things," according to the dictum of a great poet still living, does not happily break all in literature; but it is to be feared that he has reduced to fragments the once not inconsiderable fame of Felicia Hemans. She was born (her maiden name was Felicia Dorothea Browne) at Liverpool on 25th September 1794, and when she was only eighteen she married a Captain Hemans. It was not a fortunate union, and by far the greater part of Mrs. Hemans' married life was spent, owing to no known fault of hers, apart from her husband. She did not live to old age, dying on 26th April 1835. But she wrote a good deal of verse meanwhile--plays, poems, "songs of the affections," and what not. Her blameless character (she wrote chiefly to support her children) and a certain ingenuous tenderness in her verse, saved its extreme feebleness from severe condemnation in an age which was still avid of verse rather than discriminating in it; and children still learn "The boy stood on the burning deck," and other things. It is impossible, on any really critical scheme, to allow her genius; but she need not be spoken of with any elaborate disrespect, while it must be admitted that her latest work is her best--always a notable sign. "Despondency and Aspiration," dating from her death-year, soars close to real sublimity; and of her smaller pieces "England's Dead" is no vulgar thing.


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