The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XII. The Romantic Revival.

V. Lesser Poets, 1790–1837

§ 23. Sara Coleridge

The “unfulfilled renown” which Sara Coleridge won with Phantasmion—and which would have been almost certainly fulfilled, had she sacrificed less of her time and energies to the piety of putting some order into the chaos of her father’s “remains”—was derived not least from the verse with which that pleasant book is sprinkled. This bears, like her brother Hartley’s, a curious sense of incompleteness about it; its grace and perfume and suggestive melody seem to be but half-born. One face alone is worthy of not the least of the Caroline poets, and so is False Love, too long thou hast delayed. The brief and strong defence of “the fairy way of writing,” in the Envoy, deserved to be much more widely known than it is. But most of the songs are in undertones. They have, however, an air of suppressed power which is absent from those of her amiable and excellent step-aunt. Caroline Bowles, though no relation to the author of the half-accidentally famous sonnets, and much less voluminous, was, as a poetess, very much what he was as a poet. Her little verses are neither pretentious nor silly; the sentiment has hardly anything that is mawkish and still less that is rancid about it: but it is only the cowslip wine of poetry. It is unfortunate that not merely the general subject, but one or two internal touches of her Mariner’s Hymn may make some readers think of Christina Rossetti’s incomparably superior Sleep at Sea; but there is no real connection between them, and The Mariner’s Hymn deserves its own not too low place.