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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIII. The Victorian Age, Part One.

VI. Lesser Poets of the Middle and Later Nineteenth Century

§ 25. Sarah Flower Adams; Fanny Kemble

Some others must be more briefly noticed. Sarah Flower Adams—the conjunction of whose well-known piece Nearer, my God, to Thee with Newman’s Lead, Kindly Light as the most poetical of nineteenth-century hymns is not more hyckneyed than correct-wrote nothing else equal to it, and wasted most of her poetical efforts on Vivia Perpetua, one of the class of curiosuly sterile closet plays formerly noticed inconnection with Philip van Artevelde. Of two sister Sheridans, alike beautiful and witty, Lady Dufferin (the Helen of Tennyson’s Helen Tower) wrote some pretty songs. Her sister, Mrs. Norton (as she is still almost invariably called, though she was Lady Stirling-Maxwell before she died), may be said, at one time, to have shared the popularity first of Mrs. Hemans and L. E. L. (whom, though with less gush, she somewhat resembled) and, latterly, of Mrs. Browning. But her poems have not worn well, and one of the latest and (as some held) best of them, The Lady of La Garaye, was found singularly wanting at the time by then younger tastes. It is to be feared that the amiable must of Eliza Cook will never, unlike the lady in Comus, escape from that “Old Arm Chair” which contrasts, fatally for itself, with Thackeray’s cane-bottomed” rival. On the other hand, it is doubtful whether, except among the numerous friends of her famous family, Fanny Kemble has had, at any time, the reputation she deserves as a poetess. It is difficult, indeed, to name any single poem by her which is, as it were, a diploma piece; but she is scarcely ever commonplace, and, while one would be prepared to find a following of “J. M. K.’s” friend by “J. M. M.’s” sister, her work is, on the contrary, full of puzzling passages which suggest Tennyson only to unsuggest him. But her long life, despite its intervals of leisure, was frittered away between acting, un unfortunate marriage, public readings and recitations, travels and the accounts of them, autobiographic writings and a variety of other things of interest but of no great value.