The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIII. The Victorian Age, Part One.
§ 24. Caroline Archer Clive
The eldest of the whole group, a lady born just within the century and nearly ten years older then Tennyson, though she made no public appearance with verse till just on the eve of his volumes of 1842, was Caroline Archer Clive, author of the powerful novel Paul Ferrooll and its, as usual rather less powerful, sequel Why Paul Ferroll killed his Wife. A sufferer from lameness and weak health, it was not till 1840, the year of her marriage, that she gave to the world the quaintly titled book IX Poems by V—the later symbol being, by those who were not in the secret, sometimes interpreted as a number, not an initial. They attracted much attention and high praise; but Mrs. Clive did not allow herself to be tempted into over-production, and the complete edition of her poems which appeared years after her death scarcely exceeds two hundred pages. There is, however, hardly a page that is not worth reading, though, of the two longest pieces, I watched the Heavens and The Valley of the Morlas, which fill nearly half the book, the latter is better than the former, and neither has quite the poetic value of the shorter constituents. The dates of the compositions are scattered over quite forty years; and, with rare exceptions, they exhibit a singular freedom from any of the contemporary influences which might have been expected to show themselves. Indeed (and this is made less surprising by the early date of her birth) there is a certain eighteenth-century touch of the best kind in Mrs. Clive’s work; although hardly a poem, as it stands, could have been written except in the nineteenth. The general tone (though at least the last half of her life seems to have been quite happy) is of a sober and utterly unaffected melancholy. The most striking piece in subject—it is not quite the most perfect in execution, though it does not fall short of its own necessites—is one suggested by a friend’s statement that, at a great court ball, when invitations were issued by hundreds, scores of the proposed guests were found to be dead. The completest, in union of matter and form, are Hearts East, Venice and Death; but few will be found unsatisfactory, unless the reader’s nature, or his mood, be out of key with them.