William Lisle Bowles (1762-1850)
From 18th Century Literary Anecdotes

WHEN Madame de Staël was here Mr. Bowles the poet, or as Lord Byron calls him, the sonneteer, was invited to dine here. She admired his `Sonnets' and his Spirit of Maritime Discovery and ranked him high as an English genius. In riding to Bowood that day he fell from his horse and sprained his shoulder but still came on. Lord Lansdowne, willing to show him to advantage, alluded to this in presenting him before dinner to Madame de Staël. He is a simple country-curate-looking man and rather blunt, and when Madame de Staël in the midst of the listening circle in the drawing room began to compliment him and herself upon the effort he had made to come and see her, he replied,

`Oh, Ma'am, say no more about it, for I would have done a great deal more to see so great a curiosity.'

Lord Lansdowne says it is impossible to describe the shock in Madame de Staël's face—the breathless astonishment—and the total change produced in her opinion of the man, and her manner towards him. She said afterwards to Lord Lansdowne,

`Je vois bien que ce n'est qu'un curé qui n'a pas le sens commun-quoique grand poète.'

She never forgot it. Two years afterwards she spoke of it to Lord Lansdowne at Geneva, and wondered how it was possible that un tel homme could exist.

From Maria Edgeworth, Letters from England , 1813-1844, ed. Christina Colvin (1971), p. 96.

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