Page:Poems of Anne Countess of Winchilsea 1903.djvu/125

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INTRODUCTION cxxi

was seldom personal, and seldom really acrimonious. Much of it is in the fables and even those with the most caustic morals are often marked in the narrative portions by a gayety, a humorous lightness of touch, and a tolerance far enough removed from a genuinely pessimistic view of human nature.

The satiric poems are enlivened by many realistic details of value to the student of social life in the years from 1680 to 1714. Ardelia had almost as keen an eye for manners and customs, for personal idiosyncrasy, for trifling indications of moral standards and motives, as she showed later in her treatment of external nature.

That Lady Winchilsea, in her attitude toward external nature, was so far in advance of her age as to be isolated from it, is put beyond dispute by a detailed study of her poems. This forms, in fact, her principal claim to the notice of posterity.

Her preference for the country and her correspondingly strong dislike for the city find emphatic expression in Ardelia's Answer to Ephelia, about 1690, and the Preface, about 1702. The "Almeria" of the first of these poems belongs to the true apostolic succession of poetical heroines who abhorred the country. Isabella in Dryden's Wild Gallant says, "I cannot abide to be in the country like a wild beast in the wilderness." Harriet in Etheredge's Man of Mode counted all beyond Hyde Park a desert, and she said that her love of the town was so intense that she hated the country even in tapestry and in pictures. Sylvia in Shadwell's Epsom Wells assures the boor, Clodpate, the apostle of "a pretty innocent country life," that people really live nowhere but in London, for the "insipid dull being" of country folk cannot be called living. The list could be increased indefinitely and goes far down into the eighteenth century. Pope's "fond virgin" whose unhappy fate com-