Anna Seward, Lichfield, to Mary Scott Taylor, Milborne Port, 18 May 1788.
Lichfield May 18th 1788
My dear M.rs Taylor
for that name I trust you have borne since the 7th of this month, yet, in obedience to your commands, I shall direct my letter to a Personage, who I trust has no longer any existence; tho’ a Being with her Form, her abilities, & her virtues, still lives to be happy herself, & to make others happy; especially him, not for whom our prayers our desired, but to whom, as well as to her my congratulations are addressed—except indeed prayers for the long continuance of her present happiness, & that of the dear Rachael, for whom he has waited almost twice seven years, with the patience of the Patriarch.
And now let me congratulate you also upon the termination of the trouble & anxiety, inevitable to Publication, by the appearance of your Poem, The Messiah, w.h is honourable to you in many points of view, to your ingenuity, y.r good sense, & y.r piety.
The great Milton having failed to make an interesting Epic Poem upon that Subject, did I confess render me hopeless of it as a poetic theme. You have thrown more poetic grace upon it than I thought it capable of receiving, & this from its quiet & subdued Nature, w.h deprives the Epic poem of so many resources.
I wrote to M.r Hayley a few days since, & mentioned the Messiah to him as the work of a valued Friend, with whose name he is by no means unacquainted. I pointed out the note w.h makes such honourable mention of him, & transcribed my most favorite passages as extracts. So I trust he will take some interest in the reception of the Work from the ingenuity, & virtues of its Author.
I transcrib’d the Exordium to the 16th line—the beautiful description of the leading Skies from lines 82 to line 95—the sublime one of the death of Herod—the Exordium to the second part, & the conclusion—Adieu!
*Mention in the above the curious conduct of the G.M. in relation to the Section on Mont Blanc—the incorrect copy of an epitaph on M.rs Robinson sent to their [illegible word] number, as never before printed tho’ it appear’d correctly in their Publication in the Winter 85 & was thence copied into the Euo: M & into several of the newspapers. [Seward’s note.]
Text: Anna Seward Letter Book, vol. 4 (Mar. 1788-July 1789), British Library, ff. 61-62. Constable, in his edition of Seward's letters, omitted this letter. For an annotated text of this letter, see Timothy Whelan, ed., Nonconformist Women Writers, 1720-1840, vol. 4, pp. 292.