The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIII. The Victorian Age, Part One.
§ 30. Mathilde Blind; Michael Field; Constance Naden; Amy Levy
Some, mainly younger, poetesses must be mentioned more briefly, though most of them obtained, and one or two of them deserved, reputation as such. Mathilde Blind, daughter of a well-known German refugee, wrote much verse in unimpeachable English, showing strong literary sympathies and correct versification. Any competent critic in the future will be able to see at once that she wrote in the last quarter or third of the nineteenth century, and did good “school-work” in its styles—work agreeable enough to read. Over-estimation may be thought to have been the lot of the two ladies, Miss Bradley and Miss Cooper, an aunt and a niece, who had the curious fancy of writing in collaboration under one masculine name, Michael Field. Their work, which was most commonly tragic drama, but included lyric, received very high praise from reviewers, from the appearance, in 1884, of Callirrhoe, a piece on which the influence of Landor was evident in style as well as subject. Others have failed to discover much in the joint work which goes beyond the standard, already noticed, of nineteenth-century closet drama, or, in the lyrics, much more than the half machine-made verse which usually comes late in great periods of poetry. There was, perhaps, something more to be made of two others, who both died young and of whom the second died not happily, Constance Naden and Amy Levy. Miss Naden’s work is a little overloaded by its sometimes very serious subjects, pantheistic philosophy and the like, though, at times, it is also comic. But already (she died at thirty-one) she showed signs of that internal fire which melts and recasts subject according to the poet’s idiosyncrasy. Amy Levy, dying still younger, achieved even less, but gave occasional evidence—especially in a short and very simply languaged poem on the waltz—of a passionate and almost triumphant intensity not common.