Alfred H. Miles, ed. Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century. 1907.
Critical and Biographical Essay by Richard Garnett
Constance C. W. Naden (18581889)
THE LIFE of Constance Caroline Woodhill Naden was one of incessant self-culture, with enough of achievement to show that no culture could be excessive for so richly and variously endowed a mind. Born at Edgbaston, on 24th January, 1858, dying in London, 23rd December, 1889, she had evinced remarkable powers in poetry, in philosophy, and in science, and accumulated knowledge which, by the unanimous testimony of those best enabled to judge was no less remarkable for solid thoroughness than for facility of acquirement or the brilliancy of display. By the same testimony she afforded a still rarer instance of a nature unspoiled by success and admiration; entirely exempt from vanity and pedantry; as simple, tender, and playful at the last as at the first. This high praise seems borne out by the internal evidence of her poetical writings, whose main title to remembrance is the strong personal interest which they inspire. They are remarkable as compositions, both for correctness of form and eloquence of diction; yet their chief interest is not their ability but their inability to express the strong spirit behind them. This is the more remarkable as they are much less subjective than is usually the case with the productions of young poetesses, and contain much less of merely personal sentiment; while some of the best pieces belong to a department little cultivated by female votaries of the Musethe humorous. This preference for ideal characters and imaginary situations bespeaks a creative power which might have achieved something memorable but for the authoresss digression into the realms of abstract thinking, and in particular her adoption of a system of hyper-idealism which must ultimately destroy the capacity for poetical creation by resolving existence into mere illusion. Her views and aspirations might again have altered; so far as can be judged, however, her work in poetry was accomplished; its net result, two volumes, more interesting as revelations of a noble nature than as poetical inspirations, yet poetry beyond a doubt, neither mechanical nor imitative. She published two volumes of verse, Songs and Sonnets of Springtime (1881), and The Modern Apostle and Other Poems (1887). Her most finished writing is in her longer poems, A Modern Apostle, The Elixir of Life, The Story of Clarice, which are not well adapted for extract; but the three pieces, The Pantheists Song of Immortality, Friendship, and Natural Selection, express the three leading characteristics of her nature as illustrated by her verseintellectual rapture, devoted affection, and gay fanciful humour.