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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume X. The Age of Johnson.

XI. Letter-Writers

§ 24. Literature at Bath

The venue was now changed to Bath, where everybody in the later eighteenth century (except poor Lady Luxborough, the terms of whose separation from her husband would not allow her even to go on the Bath road) came sooner or later. At Lady Miller’s, of Bath Easton, the undoubted original Mrs. Leo Hunter, a company of poetasters and dilettantes met every week for some years; Graves, who was constantly present, records, with a little flutter of satisfaction, that on one occasion he met four duchesses. The results of their poetic contests were published in 1775 as Poetical Amusements at a Villa near Bath, increased to three volumes a year later, a sign of the popularity of this tepid form of literary dissipation. The verses themselves are often ingenious, and the “candid reader” is asked by their editor to

  • recollect that they were frequently the production of a few days—most of them of as many hours; [and] that they originated amidst the hurry of plays, balls, public breakfasts, and concerts, and all the dissipations of a full Bath Season—alike unfriendly to contemplation and the Muses.
  • By the time they were written, most of the earlier and much more brilliant literary coterie to which Graves had belonged had passed away, and he was the only survivor with any claim to be a true man of letters. The Leasowes had received all the wit and fashion of the earlier time, and lovers of good literature had always been welcome at Barrels. It is, indeed, round Shenstone and Lady Luxborough, the poet and the letter-writer of unaffected charm, that the memory of the Warwickshire coterie lingers; but Richard Graves, who long survived them both, won for himself a place in English letters, not lofty, but secure, where none of his friends could excel him.