In 1821, when Sidney Owenson, Lady Morgan, published her two-volume Italy, the wolves were out. [Reviewers] hated Lady Morgan as a woman writer; as an ardent Irish nationalist; and, quite possibly, as a revolutionary, and they were further incensed by the news that the publisher Colburn had paid her the immense sum of £2,000 for her book. Byron hailed the book as "fearless and excellent" in the Quarterly, but [John Wilson] Croker began the attack by calling for a Royal Commission to inquire into her age, not doubting it would pronounce her "a female Methuselah." . . .
The Edinburgh dismissed her as "an ambulator scribbler of bad novels," adding for good measure an attack by [William] Hazlitt on her book on [the Baroque painter] Salvator Rosa, in which he asserted that women had no business involving themselves in art history and criticism. Blackwoods, another Edinburgh review, described her as "the ci-devant Miladi," a "petticoated ultra-radical author" who had produced "a monstrous literary abortion." The Anglican British Review assailed her in verse: "She spewed out of her filthy maw / A flood of poison, horrible and black / Her vomit full of books and papers. . . . " Then, contradicting itself, it accused her husband of writing it, pronouncing him guilty of "intellectual hermaphroditism." When Lady Morgan rebuked her critics in the second edition, the Edinburgh returned to the attack. She was "an Irish she-wolf," a "blustering virago," a "wholesale blunderer and reviler"; she wrote while "maudlin from an extra tumbler of negus in the forenoon," and, noting that her father was an actor, the Edinburgh ordered her to return to "the stroller's barn where she was bred."
[from Paul Johnson, The Birth of the Modern: World Society, 1815-1830]