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With that smooth falsehood, whose appearance charms,
I have seen Mrs. Yearsley, I have seen Mrs. More; and the works of each I have now read. But although the evil deeds of H. More, deeds of which the low and uneducated are scarcely ever guilty, might excite a strong prejudice, on account of the mask under which they are perpetrated, against her; and though at other times I may express an honest indignation against her cruelty to individuals, and her profanation of religion, under whose guise she always so acts; I declare, that in matters of literature I will do her justice, always granting to her abilities, but no genius, much diligence and application, but no originality; and I pronounce Mrs. Yearsley a woman of originál genius, and H. More a woman of great diligence and ability.* This I am certain is their literary character. But it is the mental character, the complexion of the heart, the dignity of soul, that distinguishes the individual. All H. More's opponents, and she has had quarrels enough in her time, candidly and honourably, when they found it necessary, and discovered what sort of adver
* Not a line that thrilled my soul did I meet with in Hannah's works; yet I felt horror at several; as I do at her conduct, when I read her history, or listen to the recital of her unworthy actions. But when I take up Mrs. Yearsley's poems, I scarcely read a page but my soul is móred.
sary they had to deal with, appealed to the world, and justified themselves; instead of which, Mrs. More retired, affected illness during the storm, “ added more accusations and calumnies," or wrote anonymously, or stung some of her dupes with nettles, to “ come out,” with or without a name, to combat for her..
“ By vilest means pursues the vilest ends." Of the INFLEXIBLE CAPTIVE, nothing more can be said, but that some good sentiments are expressed in strong and appropriate language.--There is nothing dramatic; for it is only a dialogue, without catastrophe.
Fatal FALSEHOOD was performed at CoventGarden theatre, three nights, to which she herself wrote a prologue, and Mr. Sheridan the epilogue. Mr. Garrick wrote a prologue to Percy, which was acted at Drury-Lane several nights-, Mr. Garrick wrote the epilogue also. Percy was inscribed to Earl Percy; Fatal Falsehood to the Countess Bathurst. The Inflexible Captive, which was inscribed to the Hon. Mrs. Boscawen, was performed at Bath a few times. The prologue was written by Dr. Langhorne, and the epilogue by Mr. Garrick.
The character of these tragedies is, that they are calculated only to excite horror, and often disgust.
The following is a specimen of the language and sentiments in Fatal Falsehood.
“ Dost thou not know that fear is worse than grief? “ There may be bounds to grief, fear knows no bounds;
“ In grief we know the worst of what we feel, “ But who can tell the end of what we fear? « Grief mourns some sorrow palpable and known, “ But fear runs wild with horrible conjecture.” “ I'll teach thee how to bear it; I'll grow proud, “ As gentle spirits still are apt to do “ When cruel slight or killing scorn assails them. " Come, virgin dignity, come, female pride, “ Come, wounded modesty, come, slighted love, “ Come, conscious worth, come, too, O black despair !” “ This compound of strange contradicting parts, “ Too flexible for virtue, yet too virtuous “ To make a flourishing, successful villain. ". Conscience! be still; preach not remorse to me; “ Remorse is for the luckless, failing villain. “ He who succeeds repents not; penitence “ Is but another name for ill success. “ Was Nero penitent when Rome was burnt? “ No: but had Nero been a petty villain, “ Subject to laws and liable to fear, “ Nero perchance had been a penitent. “He comes :—This paper makes him all my own.". 66 Oh for a flinty heart that knows no weakness, “ But moves right onward, unseduc'd by friendship, “ And all the weak affections!”
“ This giant sin, whose bulk so lately scar'd me, " Shrinks to a common size; I now embrace “What I but lately fear'd to look upon. “ Why, what a progress have I made in guilt! “Where is the hideous form it lately wore? " It grows familiar to me; I can think, . “ Contrive, and calmly meditate on mischief, “ Talk temp’rately of sin, and cherish crimes “ I lately so abhorr'd, that had they once “ But glanc'd upon the surface of my fancy “ I had been terrified. Oh wayward conscience ! 66 Too tender for repose, too sear’d for safety!"
“ Draw thy dun curtain round, oh, night! black night! “ Inspirer and concealer of foul crimes ! “ Thou wizard night! who conjur’st up dark thoughts; “ And mak’st him bold who else wou'd start at guilt! “ Beneath thy veil the villain dares to act “ What in broad day he wou'd not dare to think, "Oh, night! thou hid'st the dagger's point from men, 6 But cans't thou screen the assassin from himself? “ Shut out the eye of heaven? extinguish conscience ! “ Or heal the wounds of honour? Oh, no, no, no!"
• One crime makes many needful: this day's sin “ Blots out a life of virtue.” From the Inflexible Captive.
6 Let honour be the spring of all our actions, “ Not interest, fathers. Let no selfish views " Preach safety at the price of truth and justice.”:
“ In laurels or in chains “ 'Tis the same principle; the same fix'd soul, “ Unmov'd itself, tho' circumstances change. “ The native vigour of the free-born mind, “ Still struggles with, still conquers adverse fortune ; “ Soars above chains, invincible tho' vanquishid.” “ Misjudging youth! learn, that like other men, “ I shun the evil, and I seek the good; . “ But that I find in guilt, and this in virtue.”
“ I have no need of oracles, my son; “ Honour's the oracle of honest men.” “ We live on honour-'tis our food, our life, “ The motive, and the measure of our deeds! “ We look on death as on a common object; “ The tongue nor faulters, nor the cheek turns pale, “ Nor the calm eye is moved at sight of him “We court, and we embrace him undismay'd ; “ We smile at tortures if they lead to glory, . “And only cowardice and guilt appal us."
I have almost always disliked novels and all imagined characters, and no work affords greater instruction than real history and actual biography. The dialogue of comedy gives me some pleasure, but real dialogue more. That between Mrs. More and Mrs. Yearsley, being true, much gratified me; and I clearly perceive that Mrs. Yearsley, unless it be a little defect in the art of grammar, was by... far the superior woman. That she is in dignity of mind is evident; that she is so in integrity admits of no question. No poem of H. More's exhibits so much genius, or of the true poetical spirit, as Mrs. Yearsley's Soliloquy and Sensibility, The one is an original genius; the other, Mrs. More, has acquired abilities, by much application and study.--Let the poem of each on Sensibility be compared.
Having finished what I had to say on Mrs. More, as a poet, I will now conclude, by quoting the superior judgment of my relation, Peter Pindar, Esq. one of the first critics of the day, to confirm and justify the opinion I have uniformly given of her merits.
“ Miss Hannah may be aptly term'd a hen, . “Who' sits on pheasant's eggs, to kindness prone, “ Hatches the birds, a pretty brood; but then,
“ Weak vanity! she calls the chicks her own. “ Lo, for the laurel prize Miss Hannah starts !
“ But Nature to Miss Hannah's heels unkind, “ The hopes of honour and of glory thwarts !
“ Left is Miss Hannah far, yes, far behind.