Alfred H. Miles, ed. Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century. 1907.
Critical and Biographical Essay by Richard Garnett
Isabella Harwood (Ross Neil) (18401888)
ISABELLA HARWOOD, who is better known by the name of Ross Neil, occupies a place among the writers of her own day corresponding to that filled by Joanna Baillie in a preceding generation. Like Joanna Baillie she kept the torch of the poetical drama alight without the power to send it abroad. Her plays pleased in the closet, but could take no hold upon the stage. In an era of great dramatic activity, the authoress of Inez and Elfinella might have passed unobserved: in her own day she stood forth as the writer whose experiments in poetical drama were the most numerous, the most earnest, and, in many respects, the most successful. The two examples selected will convey a fair idea of her intellectual ability, singular elegance of diction, and accurate delineation of character. She has done all that depended upon herself; the misfortune is that after having collected all the materials of the pyre with diligence and arranged them with judgment, she still needs the Promethean spark to kindle them. Her dramas are too manifestly works of reflection; she is never carried away by her subject, while at the same time too much interested in it to sink to the level of a mere playwright. Before essaying the drama, she had produced some deservedly successful novels, and acquired the art of constructing a plot. She was the daughter of Philip Harwood, editor of the Saturday Review. Her life was entirely uneventful; but her good sense, amiability, and accomplishments adorned a tasteful home, and charmed a congenial circle. She wrote no fewer than fourteen plays, every one of which may be read with pleasure.