The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIII. The Victorian Age, Part One.
§ 26. Adelaide Anne Procter
All the ladies just mentioned were born in the first two decades, and most of them in the first decade, of the century; but, about 1820 and in the years following, another group of poetesses arose. The two eldest, Menella Bute Smedley and Dorothy (Dora) Greenwell, were members of families otherwise distinguished in literature, and their own names are worthily inscribed on the columns which invidious satire long ago grudged to lesser poets; but there is some lack of inevitableness about their work. Dinah Craik (born Mulock) is herself more distinguished as a novelist than as a poet. But the mild genius of Adelaide Anne Procter, daughter of Barry Cornwall, had something attaching about it which justified the use of the substantive just applied, though the adjective must be kept in view. Very recently, an Austrian monograph on her, though it was possibly prompted by thezeal of religious sympathy (she joined the Roman Catholic Church rather late in her short life), may have startled some of its readers who rememberd Adelaide Anne Procter’s work as “a book that used to belong to a fellow’s sisters”—to borrow an admirable phrase of Thackeray about something else. The fancy which Dickens had for her verse is not to be too much discounted by personal acquaintance, though that existed; for he accepted her poetry in Household Words when he did not know it was hers; and, though he certainly was not what one would call “nothing if not critical” especially in poetry, he always knew what would please the public. Pretty music and, at one time, magnificent public singing may have had something to do with the vogue of The Message, but it retains a charm for some who are not mere sentimentalists and who never were specially musical. And she had no small power of verse narrative—among numerous examples is the version of the beautiful story of St. Beatrix, here called Sister Angela, which was given to “Belinda” in a Christmas number of All the Year Round. Now, verse narrative, save in the very different hands of Williams Morris, has seldom beem satisfactorily handled since the first half of the nineteenth century.