On reading some very illiberal Strictures on Miss Seward's Louisa in the European Magazine (1784)

Thou injur’d Excellence whose beauteous Brow

The Muses crown with all their fairest wreathes,

How throbs my heart with indignation now

Envenom’d envy on their beauty breathes!

Ye impotent as base, your toil is vain,

You but your own malevolence express;

Unsullied these Elysian flowers remain,

And all their Odour, all their tints possess.

As well might ye divest yon blushing Rose

Of bloom and fragrance, as deface the page

Where Genius in its native luster glows;

The hoarded treasure of a future Age.

Draw your close Curtains, make a mimic night

To hide the Radiance of the Orb of Day;

Ye may indeed exclude his cheering light,

But have ye robb’d Him of a single Ray?

Text: MS, Steele Collection, Angus Library, Regent’s Park College, Oxford, STE 5/3; STe 5/1; also Whelan, Nonconformist Women Writers, vol. 3, p. 135. Lousia: A Poetical Novel, in Four Books, by Anna Seward, was first published in Lichfield in 1784. A copy of Louisa and Seward’s Monody on Major Andrè (2nd ed., 1781), both signed by Seward, can be found in a collection of literary works inserted into a bound volume in STE 14/2; a transcription of one of her poems, ‘Verses address’d to Mr Wright of Derby by Miss Seward on his having painted her Father’s picture’, can be found (in an unknown hand) in 5/8. Apparently, Seward had been in contact with Mary Steele, or with someone closely connected with her, possibly Mary Scott, resulting in a signed copy coming into the possession of the Steeles at Broughton. Seward was highly regarded as a poet by Steele and her friends (see also Mary Scott’s poem to Seward, in Whelan, Nonconformist Women Writers, vol. 4, pp. 46-47). The ‘illiberal’ review, according to Steele, appeared in the European Magazine 6 (August 1784), pp. 105-08, and 7 (February 1785), pp. 107-12, by William Julius Mickle. For Mickle’s identification, see Arthur Sherbo, ‘Isaac Reed and the European Magazine’, Studies in Bibliography 37 (1984): 210-227, p. 224, n. 12.