Reviews, Probably by Mary Wollstonecraft
Reviews in the Analytical Review, probably by Mary Wollstonecraft, of Mary Robinson's poetry and novels, 1790-1797.
[Editorial note on these reviews]
1. Rev. of Ainsi va le Monde. A Poem. Analytical Review 8 (December 1790) 550-51.
2. Rev. of Angelina. A Novel. In a Series of Letters. Analytical Review 23 (February 1796) 293-294.
3. Rev. of Hubert de Sevrac, a Romance of the eighteenth Century. Analytical Review 25 (May 1797) 523.
[Analytical Review 8 (December 1790) 550-51]
Rev. of Ainsi va le Monde. A Poem. Inscribed to Robert Merry, Esq; A.M. By Laura Maria. 4to. II p. price Is. 6d. Bell. 1790.[Link to Robinson's poem]
The title of this poem did not give us an idea of its tendency, we except the inscription; but we presume it alludes to the late triumph of liberty: we shall therefore give an Invocation to Freedom as a specimen, passing over the many elegant compliments addressed to Mr. Merry in flowing numbers. P. 10.
"Freedom--- blithe goddess of the rainbow vest,
In dimpled smiles and radiant beauties drest,
I court thee from thy azure-spangled bed
Where ether floats about thy winged head;
Where tip-toe pleasure swells the choral song,
While gales of odour waft the cherub throng;
On every side the laughing loves prepare
Enamel'd wreaths to bind thy flowing hair:
For thee the light-heel'd graces fondly twine,
To clasp thy yielding waist, a zone divine!
Venus for thee her crystal altar rears,
Deck'd with fresh myrtle---gemm'd with lovers' tears;
Apollo strikes his lyre's rebounding strings,
Responsive notess divine Cecelia sings,
The tuneful sisters prompt the heavenly choir,
Thy temple glitters with Promethean fire.
The sacred priestess in the centre stands,
She strews the sapphire floor with flow'ry bands.
See! from her shrine electric incense rise;
Hark! "Freedom" echoes thro' the vaulted skies.
The goddess speaks! O mark the blest decree,---
Tyrants shall fall triumphant man be free!"
[Analytical Review 23 (February 1796) 293-294]
Rev. of Angelina. A Novel. In a Series of Letters. By Mrs. Mary Robinson. 3 vols. 12mo. About 900 pages. Price 10s. 6d. in boards. Hookham and Carpenter. 1796.
Our readers, we doubt not, will be pleased to see, that we are indebted to Angelina to the elegant pen of Mrs. R. To the merit of the author, as a poet and a novelist, we have already, on several occasions, born our testimony; and we conceive that the production , which is now before us, will in no respect detract from her well-earned reputation. Unwilling by anticipation to diminish the pleasure which our readers may receive from the perusal of these volumes, we forbear to enter on the subject of the piece. We shall only observe, that it's principal object is to expose the folly and the iniquity of those parents who attempt to compel the inclinations of their children into whatever conjugal connections their mercenary spirit may choose to prescribe, and to hold forth to just detestation the cruelty of those, who scruple not to barter a daughter's happiness, perhaps through life, for a founding title or a glittering coronet. The characters in the piece are in general naturally pourtrayed and distinctly marked. The most prominent figure, though the novel bears the name of Angelina, is Sophia Clarendon, a young lady of amiable disposition, and highly accomplished. Her father, sir Edward, a rich city merchant, is a perfect picture of gothic ignorance and barbarity, combined with that pride of wealth, and contemptible ambition, which characterize low and vulgar minds. Belmont, a young man, who had been educated as an orphan, and on whom Sophia places her affections, is distinguished by the ardency of a reciprocal attachment, the nicest sense of honour, an enlightened mind, with a generous and undaunted spirit. His rival, lord Acreland, though chargeable with some enormous errours, is, notwithstanding, a character rather weak than vicious, - the dupe of the malignant machinations of his sister lady Selina. In the portrait of Angelina we behold an assemblage of almost every excellence which can adorn the female mind, beaming mildly through clouds of affliction and melancholy. Her situation will interest the feelings of the reader, and the disclosure of her history and character form an agreeable and important scene in the catastrophe. The sentiments contained in these volumes are just, animated, and rational. They breathe a spirit of independence, and a dignified superiority to whatever is unessential to the true respectability and genuine excellence of human beings. The story, though it will not greatly rouse or deeply agitate, is yet sufficiently interesting to excite and prolong the attention of the reader; and the phraseology is at once correct and appropriate. There is one errour however, of which, though to some it may appear trifling, we deem it our duty to admonish the author. The errour we allude to is writing "laying" for "lying," and confounding the active with the neuter verb, which she has oftener than once committed.
[Analytical Review 25 (May 1797) 523]
Rev. of Hubert de Sevrac, a Romance of the eighteenth Century. By Mary Robinson. 3 vols. 12mo. 950 pages. Price 13s. 6d. sewed. Hookham and Co. 1796.
Mrs. Robinson writes so rapidly, that she scarcely gives herself time to digest her story into a plot, or to allow those incidents gradually to grow out of it, which are the fruit of matured invention. She certainly possesses considerable abilities; but she seems to have fallen into an errour, common to people of lively fancy, and to think herself so happily gifted by nature, that her first thoughts will answer her purpose. The consequence is obvious; her sentences are often confused, entangled with superfluous words, half-expressed sentiments, and false ornaments.
In writing the present romance Mrs. Radcliffe appears to be her model; and she deserves to rank as one of her most successful imitators: still the characters are so imperfectly sketched, the incidents so unconnected, the changes of scene so frequent, that interest is seldom excited, and curiosity flags.
After this account we shall not be expected to give the outlines of such an imperfect tale; the object of it is apparently benevolent, but it has no centre out of which the moral, that the vices of the rich produce the crimes of the poor, could naturally emanate.
It is but just, however, to observe, before dismissing the article, that some of the descriptions are evidently sketched by a poet, and irradiations of fancy flash through the surrounding perplexity, sufficient to persuade us, that she could write better, were she once convinced, that the writing of a good book is no easy task.
Robert Merry and The Laurel of Liberty: Merry was the leading figure in the "Della Cruscan" school of poetry, a highly sensuous and decorative style controversial in Britain because of its support of the French Revolution and because of its eroticism. His poem The Laurel of Liberty(1790) was an outspoken celebration of the French Revolution and the immediate inspiration for Robinson's Ainsi Va le Monde; Robinson is also responding to his "Elegy Written on the Plain of Fontenoy" (published in The Poetry of the World, Vol. 1, 1788). Hannah Cowley, in whose plays Robinson had acted, was another leading member of the Della Cruscan school, and she corresponded publicly with Merry (whose pen name was "Della Crusca") as "Anna Matilda" in the World periodical. It was Merry who introduced Robinson to William Godwin in 1796.
John Bell: Bell also published Robinson's first volume of poems, and in 1794 became a war correspondent with the British Army in Flanders (see Hoagwood and Jackson, Introduction to Sappho and Phaon, 4, 11).
[Editorial Note: These three reviews of Robinson's works from the Analytical Review are attributed to Wollstonecraft by Janet Todd in vol. 7 of The Works of Mary Wollstonecraft (On Poetry, Contributions to the Analytical Review, 1788-1797. Two reviews (of Ainsi va le Monde and Angelina) are signed "M," the initial Wollstonecraft often used, and one is unsigned but attributed according to style and subject matter by Todd. Wollstonecraft was invited by Joseph Johnson to contribute to the Analytical starting in 1788, and wrote reviews, eventually serving as editorial assistant, until her death in 1797. For an overview of the questions regarding the attribution of Wollstonecraft's reviews, see Todd's "Prefatory Note" to Vol 7 of The Works of Mary Wollstonecraft, 14-18.]