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Dear friends and readers,

The yearly meeting of the East Central American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies concluded a couple of days ago. Its topic, “Networks” provided a perspective that made for new alignments of information and insight: concrete human relationships may be said to be the basis of many lives, of many political and social movements, of every kind of artistic project; finding out and describing people’s interconnections, how they connect, why, what they use connections for, turned out to tell the story of history and works of art in fresh ways. This first of three reports covers the panels for Friday morning and early afternoon. As usual this report is not meant to reflect a general view of what went on, as I simply followed my own interest in what I choose to go to; I also give just the gist of the papers I heard.

Thursday night was our customary Oral/Aural experience organized by Peter Staffel. Some years people have done parts of plays, and read poetry chosen by Peter, but this year we “went full circle” back to 20 years ago when a few performers played the romantic subplot of Dryden’s Marriage a la Mode. We listened to and watched members of our society enact this play again, with all its wry and perceptive remarks on love and marriage.

William HogarthJonesFamily
Hogarth’s portrait of The Jones Family children performing The Indian Emperor in 1730/31 reminds us how popular were amateur theatrics in the 18th century

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Zoffany’s The Gore family (at home), with George, Lord Cowper belongs to the 18th century genre of painting called conversation pieces ….

Friday began at 9:00 am and the first panel, “Friendships and Their Networks” was chaired by Linda Merians who gave one of the two papers. Elizabeth Lambert spoke first on Edmund Burke’s different interconnecting worlds of people and projects going on in his Irish country estate, Beaconsfield. She covered a small portion of the material of her book, Edmund Burke of Beaconsfield: Burke’s life at Beaconsfield after his retirement.

Beaconsfield

Beth began by telling us that Burke studies are in a healthy state with two new books published recently (e.g., David Bromwich) and Fred Lock’s day-by-day biography. She told of Burke’s state of mind as he retired, his relationship wih his wife, and then took us to Burke in his later years. The list of his guests reads like a roster of the finest minds, people with the most interesting experiences in the UK at the time. It’s piquant to see how differently Burke was regarded by his friends as a group and then separately. Elizabeth Montagu saw a farmer, husband, neighbor, good companion. Hester Thrale noted the dirt and informality of the house and how Burke’s wife, Jane, enjoyed drinking and dressing up. Guests included Garrick, Frances Burney, French exiles, local Irish associates. Burke fought with neighbors over property rights (a small pond, the right to kill rabbits). We read about their amateur theatricals, about how Burke provided an outfit for one man by sneaking it out of a closet. Beth painted a delightful picture of a Burke not often discussed in books about his political life or philosophy, the man in the country, the life at his table. Among other projects of his late years (which included a vexatious incident of litigation she referred to under the label “rabbit killing and pond wars”), Burke set up a school for the children of the French exiles, and in his letters we can watch him setting the place up: hiring teachers, selecting books, providing mattresses, blankets, soup plates. Beth said the school and Beaconsfield provided a place for the healing of Burke’s soul after his years in Parliament.

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Matthew Prior (1664-1721)

Linda Merians began by quoting Samuel Johnson’s famous definition of a network (it’s of a concrete fishing net), suggested that for some the word has very negative connotations (the New York Times defined a networker as a “leech”), and said how we look at this part of human behavior depends on our age, what career we had, or the stage we are in, how good we were at networking. Networking was central to Prior’s career success: at age 10 when his father had died, he was working in a pub and so impressed the Earl of Dorset, the man paid for Prior to go to the best schools, and Matthew learnt to read and translate Latin, made the right friends and eventually became a career diplomat. He is said to have written 3000 letters (where he expended some of his sharpest sallies). Linda also gave us a picture of the man’s at-home social life and how in his case it spilled into the making of his career. He enjoyed entertaining guests and wrote social verse for them. He was employed by the Tories, and when Harley (Earl Oxford) was thrown out of office Prior visited him in prison. Undaunted (in effect), he carried on writing to a friends and people who could help him and others, e.g., Shelton. Sometimes Prior does sound the note of bitterness (as Samuel Johnson did in his famous letter to Chesterfield) writing that this help has come too late and while he is now in bad health. Late in his life Prior had to keep writing to support himself. He wrote to cover debts, sought patrons to subscribe for his next publication (as did Swift) and performed in letters, but he also maintained friendships important to him (he wrote “friendship can be no more forced than love”). Linda found endearing how Prior refers to his verse as his “little stuff.”

In the talk afterward people said you could buy rare books by Prior for very little. Alas he is not much read nowadays. Nor is Pope outside 18th century and literary and scholarly circles. A couple of people suggested that Prior was himself the (unsung) hub of a network. We agreed that a house and place were central to who became a hub for networks. The house may also be central to the identity of the writer and others living there.

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A contemporary print of Streatham, the Thrales’ home

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Richard Samuel’s The Nine Living Muses (1779): The sitters are (standing, left to right): Elizabeth Carter, Anna Barbauld, Elizabeth Sheridan, Hannah More, Charlotte Lennox; (seated, left to right): Angelica Kauffmann, Catherine Macaulay, Elizabeth Montagu, Elizabeth Griffith

At 10:30 the second set of panels began, and my panel was part of this set: “Forging Connections among Women.” Catherine Keohane spoke first: she presented the triangular relationship of Hannah More, Elizabeth Montagu, and Ann Yearsley where More was cultivating Montagu to further herself while she supposedly commended Yearsley’s writing to Montague.

Portrait_of_Elizabeth_Montagu_(1718-1800)_by_Allan_Ramsay_(1713-1784)_in_1762
Elizabeth Montagu (1762) by Allen Ramsay (1713-1784)

by Henry William Pickersgill, oil on canvas, 1821 Hannah More (1821) as painted by Henry William Pickersgill

by Joseph Grozer, after  Sarah Shiells, mezzotint, published 1787
Ann Yearsley by Joseph Grozer, after Sarah Shiells, mezzotint, published 178

Catherine focused on a nine-page letter from More to Montagu most of which consists of More’s praise (flattery?) of Montagu’s critical work on Shakespeare. More is showing how women have the right to produce literary criticism based on the excellence of Montagu’s book. The uncomfortable part of this networking is More describes Yearsley’s work in terms much more fitting either to stereotypes of Shakespeare or to Montagu’s work. Yearsley is given the backhanded compliment of imitating the Bible in place of the classics. We have no sense of Yearsley’s voice. We do have a accurate sense of what contemporaries valued Montagu’s criticism for.

Erlis Wickersham described the arduous unceasing work of Sophie Von La Roche during the time she was producting a periodical called Pomona for “Germany’s daughters.”

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Sophie Von La Roche (1713-1807)

Sophie was the only German woman writer to produce and write in a periodical in this era. She wanted to provide other women with cosmopolitan knowledge of the world outside their local worlds, to recognize and understand the cultural icons of their day. She kept up the periodical almost single-handedly, producing an issue every month for two years, using other women’s writing sent to her (not always identified) but writing most of the material herself. She herself was well-educated by a liberal father. She translated, provided songs, musical accompaniments for poems, discussed issues of the day (abolition of serfdom), American Quakers, German translations from Naples, material about and from Greece, Switzerland, Italy. Her message was it’s acceptable for a woman to be an intellectual.

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My paper came next – on Anne Home Hunter and Anne Macvicar Grant: I’ve put the text on academia.edu: Poetry and Prose from the Center and the Periphery. My argument is that we need to study these two women from the point of view of their lives and art as women; when we do, their full oeuvres emerge as of great interest to us today: they deal with global and political issues; they are also most moving when they intermingle their personal experiences, friends and poetic concerns with the larger historical and geopolitical perspectives they carve out. Grant is a fine poet, but she reveals her friendships and is is at her most interesting and original in her prose writing; her ethnographic studies and transations and literary criticism are worth perusual. Hunter left few letters but reveals her connections with women in her verseis a great poet, and although I argue her lyrics for Haydn are a small part of her oeuvre, they are extraordinary and so I include here a performance of “The Wanderer:”

Elizabeth Childs talked about using a variety of Austen post-texts (movies, sequels, other analogues) to teach Austen in an all-girls’ college. The larger question is what is Austen’s cultural role in the 20th century. She focused on the Austen project, a publishing venture where best-selling authors are supposed to re-write Austen’s famous six novels. Thus far Joanne Trollope has published a Sense and Sensibility, Val Mcdermid, a Northanger Abbey, and A. McCall. Smith, an Emma. The publicity emphasizes these authors’ celebrity status; what evaluative criticism there has been suggests the authors have been too reverential, and the attempt to align closely modern day circumstances with Austen’s plot-design and themes can be jarring and anachronistic. Liza suggested that Smith’s Emma set in Botswana is concerned with the nature of male authority in the local culture.

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This cover makes Trollope’s name, a teenager’s coat and the title of the book prominent; Austen’s name is in tiny letters to the left.

Among the topics discussed afterward were the recent demoralizing falling out of print of those women’s texts that had been made available for the first time in the 1980s, and the continued lack of scholarly annotated editions for many women’s non-fiction books. There is still also the problem for Austen world books that the identification of women with sentiment skews the way these originally ironic books are written and framed. It was agreed that Jo Baker’s Longbourne because it introduces a new perspective (that of the servants), new characters, takes place in areas connected to Austen and yet far from her immediate concerns (the Peninsular war) helps account for its strength and success.

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Above an engraving (by Benoist) for a French edition of Pamela and just below a simple woodcut type illustration for an inexpensive Pamela

After lunch, the presidential address was given by Sondra Jung and was about Pamela Chapbooks and their illustrations. Richardson’s Pamela was the focus of a central popular media event of the era, and among the enormous amount of paraphernalia produced were illustrations. These visualized scenes from the novel provide us with different readings of the book and basically what Sondra demonstrated was that insofar as the illustrations can tell us what working and lower middle class people felt as they read, Richardson’s message came across to them in abridged and other editions as deeply conservative, religious, pious. He described what 20th century critics write of Pamela (elite, ironic, complex meanings) to what we may surmise from these chapbooks, abridgements and illustrations, most of which remove the erotic ambiguities we find in Francis Hayman, Hubert-Francois Gravelot, and the best known today, paintings of Joseph Highmore. He then took us through a history of different editions, engravings, and included in his purview the US. Pamela, he suggested, was by most readers read as a conduct book. These lesser-known but important illustrators include John Arliss (he illustrated a juvenile library edition of Pamela); Sondra cited the names and talked of the publishers of these books, the style and interest in the pictures found there: they are small, blurred, and seem sometimes intended to show the fashions of various readers’ eras.

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A copy of the fifth full edition: note the subtitle

There was considerable discussion of Sondra’s presentation afterward, most of it querying the reliability of statistics, problems in ascertaining who were the readers of the different Pamelas, the perspective of book history people.

I didn’t get to make a small contribution I might have made, though I’m not sure I could have (I cannot resist saying how proud I felt but also much flustered at having been awarded the Leland D. Peterson award at the beginning of the luncheon): when I was around 14 my father had in our house several sets of English novel classics first printed in the 1930s and 40s: these were not abridged, they were printed and distributed by mainstream book-of-the-month type publishers in inexpensive hardbacks meant to look like serious books (dark brown, silver-colored designs). Most of these sets did not have novels with any kind of open sexual matter, overt politics and probably violence too, so Jane Austen, Dickens’s David Copperfield, George Eliot’s Silas Marner were repeated choices, with individual ones Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Only one set included a copy of Pamela, but I remember that the story, characters and what seemed to me heroine’s obsession with her virginity, indeed the whole attack on her seemed obsessive and surprised me greatly, seemed very strange in the context of 1950s New York City. I couldn’t take seriously its obvious reiterated theme of “virtue rewarded,” but now surmise that this theme enabled the inclusion of this book in just one set out of many classic books. My point would have been that ordinary readers and publishers of the 1930s through 50s saw Pamela as both ostensibly about virtue and highly erotic.

A second report will follow in (I hope) less than a week.

Ellen

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The American Lady improved as went on — but still the same faults in part recurred, 11 Jan 1809 … I made my mother an excuse & came away; leaving just as many for their round table, as there were at Mrs Grants, 19 Jan 1813 … I have disposed of Mrs Grant for the 2nd fortnight to Mrs Digweed; — it can make no difference to her, which of the 26 fortnights in the Year, the 3 volume lay in her House, 9 February 1813 (Jane Austen)

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The cover and one of the sketches of the 18th century Scots woman artist, Lady Anne Barnard (1750-1825)

Dear friends and readers,

A couple of months ago now I reported that I had submitted a panel proposal for papers on Forging Connections Among Women for the November 2016 EC/ASECS conference at West Chester. The due date for paper proposals is fast approaching and last night I wrote a proposal for a paper:

Three Scots women writers: Anne McVicar Grant, Anne Home Hunter, and Elizabeth Grant Smith (“the Highland Lady”, 1797-1885)

I propose to discuss the writing of Grant, Hunter and Grant, from a different yet related perspectives than is usually done. Anne McVicar Grant is discussed from the point of view of how her poetry and prose fits in with idealized or sentimental images of early America, and helped create the national identity and nation creating of Scotland and seen in the context of Walter Scott’s slightly later achievement. Anne Home Hunter’s poetry is discussed as it relates to her lyrical writing for Joseph Haydn’s canzonettas; she is also brought up as the beloved partner of her famous surgeon husband, John Hunter, and a London saloniere; occasionally her moving poem to her daughter upon her daughter’s marriage is brought up (mostly because it’s a poem favored by anthologizers of women’s poetry). Elizabeth Grant Smith is still known as the Highland Lady, discussed as a kind of Jane Austen from traditional private non-fictional writing selves, a mirror of her era. Using Paula Backscheider’s categories in her study of women’s poetry, and various studies of Scottish women’s writing (especially those edited by Dorothy McMillan), I will try to see their work in terms of their lives and women’s traditions of writing: Grant and Hunter as writing poetry and prose of friendship, Hunter passionate elegies, and Grant as creating a counter candid universe.

To a Friend on New Year’s Day

Dear friend, for thee, through ev’ry changing year,
Unchang’d affection draws the tie more near;
Treasure most precious, dearest to the heart,
Increas’d in value as the rest depart.
Tho’ kindred bonds may break, and love must fade,
Friendship still brightens in the deep’ning shade.
Time, silent and unseen, pursues his course,
And wearied nature sickens at her source.
Methinks I see the season onward roll,
When age, like winter, comes to chill the soul:
I tremble at that pow’r’s resistless sway
Who bears the flowers and fruit of life away …

Let me not linger on the verge of fate,
Nor weary duty to its utmost date;
Losing, in pain’s impatient gloom confin’d,
Freedom of thought, and dignity of mind;
Till pity views untouch’d the parting breath,
And cold indiff’rence adds a pang to death …

Let me still from self my feelings bear,
To sympathize with sorrow’s starting tear …

Let me remember, in the gloom of age,
To smile at follies happier youth engage;
See them fallacious, but indulgent spare
The fairy dreams experience cannot share.
Nor view the rising morn with jaundice eye,
Because for me no more the sparkling moments fly.
— Anne Hunter (1802)

I’ve written about Elizabeth Grant only as part of what I had hoped to learn from an ASECS session on women’s public and private writing in the form of weekly notes taken from a group read we had on Eighteenth Century Worlds @ Yahoo in draft stage, and thought tonight I might add concise succinct summary to these, and a couple of references to recent work on Anne Grant and Anne Home Hunter that I overlooked or have come across since writing of them as foremother poets.

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In A History of Scottish Women’s Writing, edd Douglas Gifford and Dorothy McMillan, two essays tell the story of the final publication and value of the voluminous life-writing of Elizabeth Grant, McMillan’s “Selves and Others: Non-fiction writing in the 18th and 19th century” [of women writers in English], and Peter Butter’s “Elizabeth Grant.” Over the course of a long life, Elizabeth kept up a vividly written, perceptive, unsentimental and candid record of her varied life, beginning with her grandparents (before she was born), her parents’ relationship, her own early thwarted love affair, semi-coercive marriage, and later years, only part of which were published in compilations from 1846-54, to make money. She includes trips to Cheltenham, descriptions of university life in England, and projects some surprisingly radical views of what she lived in Scotland (with real respect for local attachments in the Highlands at any rate). She is known for her ability to delight the reader with her scenes, but she can do far more than that, like enter into a tragedy of a woman whose husband dies on moors:

It was not till late autumn when our gamekeeper was on the Braeriach shooting grouse, that he saw seated on a shelf of rock midway down a precipice a plaided figure. It was all that was left of the missing shepherd … and his Colly dead beside him … His widow was past all knowledge of his fate; her anxiety had brought on premature childbirth, fever ensued, and though she recovered her strength in a degree, her mind was quite gone. She lived in the belief of the speedy return of her husband, went cheerfully about her usual work, preparing all things for him … Sometime towards evening she would look wearily round and sigh heavily, and wander a little in her talk, but in the morning she was early up and busy as ever. She was never in want, for every one helped her; but though she was so much pitied, she was in their sober way much blamed. The highlanders are fatalists … We must ‘dree our weird’, all of us, and ’tis a ‘flying in the face of providence’ to break the heart for God’s inflictions. They feel keenly too; all their affections are very warm and deep; still, they are not to be paraded. A tranquil manner is a part of their good breeding, composure under all circumstances essential to the dignity of character common to all of the race. (quoted by Butter, 231)

These were bowlderized and censored as well as abridged. Above are the first full texts unexpurgated and annotated to be published. Grant’s great-great-great-granddaughter allowed Canongate press to go forward presenting these texts as mirrors of the Highlands, as part of reconstituting a national Scottish identity. It is common for women’s autobiographies from before the 20th century to be published even centuries later by an editor whose purpose and agenda is different from the woman author’s.

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France

Elizabeth wrote not only of her Highland life, but of her time in Ireland and France; she spent considerable time in London, England growing up, during her adolescent years, and in her later married life, Bombay, India too (alas never written up coherently, something may be learned from Bombay to Bloomsbury: A Biography of the Strachey Family by Barbara Caine).

The new full Memoirs of a Highland Lady is a masterwork of life-writing, and the other two of great interest too, yes partly as offering an incomparable depiction of all sorts of aspects of gentry to impoverished life wherever she was, but just as much of her own inner life through her telling of her struggles and all the many people she interacted with on many levels. The dry saturnine tone she can affect, the conservative framing and the real plangencies and cruelties (as when she was a child, the treatment she and her siblings were subjected to by governesses and parents) may tempt people to see her as a Jane Austen who gives us the authentic underbelly of existence, and daily life’s subversions and larger politics; there is a similarity in the authentic subterranean currents of women speaking to women where (as in what is left of Austen’s letters) a lack of publication means more liberty to speak. Like a Jane Austen or Frances Burney heroine, Elizabeth seems rarely to have been able to find a congenial female companion in her local place and time with whom to confide so she turns to forge connections with an imagined community.

For Anne Grant I omitted Catherine Kerrigan’s An Anthology of Scottish Women Poets and Paula Feldman’s British Women Poets of the Romantic Era; for her and Anne Home Hunter, Jennifer Breen’s Women Romantic Poes, 1785-1832. For Anne Home Hunter, the extraordinary revealing The Life and Poems of Anne Hunter (given the inevitable subtitle based on only a few lyrics), Haydn’s Tuneful Voice, ed, introd. Caroline Grigson (with an essay by Isobel Armstrong), essays in Mary Hunter and Richard Will’s collection, Engaging Haydn and sections in Wendy Moore’s The Knife Man: Blood, Body Snatching and the Birth of Modern Surgery and John Kobler’s The Reluctant Surgeon, both basically biographies of her husband John Hunter.

I conclude with a link to a thread we’ve had on Women Writers through the Ages @ Yahoo over the past few days on the erasure of women’s impressionist artists from impressionist exhibits (yes there were a number), on how much of the women’s canon of poetry has been lost, destroyed, abridged, censored, how women artists as a group not understood at all. This paper I meant to write, this panel and the two I chaired on The Anomaly (women living alone from the later 17th through the mid-19th century in the UK and US) are part of my small effort (among many others on the world wide web) to do bring forward some of these women in their own right.

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Marguerite Gerard (1761-1837), known as The Cat’s Lunch.

The above painting shows companionship between the woman depicted and her pets; she was Jean-Honore Fragonard’s sister-in-law, and he enabled her 40 year artistic career. Click on the image to enlarge and see full beauty of it. You will see that the cat is not as anatomically correct as the dog or later 18th century depictions of cats will become (say by Stubbs who is as good at cats as horses), suggesting the cat was not as commonly domesticated as yet as an at home pet as the dog was fast becoming.

Ellen

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anne-dormer-entrapped-in-her-marriage
Amy Marston as Anne Dormer, a prisoner within a marriage

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Hannah Boyle as Gertrude Saville, spinster

Dear friends,

What unites the above unhappy women was they had no space or place of their own they could have any liberty to live for real in. They are but two of the many real historical people, many men too, whom Amanda Vickery discussed and dramatizes in her excellent 3 part documentary, At Home with the Georgians. It has been much misunderstood in some of the public commentary: she’s been quoted as using outrageous language about males (testerone), but she’s talking tongue-in-cheek very often — and to me that was part of the surreptitious fun, her use of ironies undercut patriarchy without saying so. She made instructive comparisons with us today: we too live behind barred doors and seek partners, but we have our solitude and do not live under such strict hierarchical arrangements. I enjoyed her delivery of sparkling wit, dry descriptions, and how she suggested tragedies of several existences she described which now and then came into the edge of the focus.

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An enactment of George Gibbs, country physician, come back to his home, wife, family, servants (out of his diary, from Part 1 of Vickery, At Home)

Part One was about how men longed to marry to gain status as males, women for sex, homes to stabilize, to vote from, to participate in communities out of. Part Two about how women gave themselves an identity by how they decorated their houses, made their world. Part Three the intense importance of having space, guarding it fiercely, the nature of the crowded hierarchical and often hard lives the Georgians lived. I envied how many private correspondences she had been privileged to read.

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It takes off from only one sub-set of themes in her powerful Behind Closed Doors, and I hope to watch it carefully and write a review here to do it justice.

I connect these women, watching them in the contexts I see in my mind prompted me to write a CFP I sent to the committee for next fall’s (!) EC/ASECS whose topic is networking. It’s been accepted. It’s an outgrowth of my thinking about the anomaly (women living alone, well if middle class except for their servants), years of reading women writers and about women whose lives were in potentiality like that of Saville and Anne Dormer. And just now Vickery who reached her subjects by reading the letters and documents they left. So I called it

Forging Connections Among Women

It is a truth once universally acknowledged that the way societies have organized themselves isolates the average woman; they may socialize within the space they find themselves in with their families and friends, but there are enormous pressures and social and economic constraints keeping them from reaching out to people beyond the family and milieu into which chance has thrown them. Thus the writing and publication of poetry, novels, plays, letters and memoirs and travel by women especially when addressing issues and experiences from a woman’s point of view become ways for the average woman to become part of a network and dialogue with other women. A trip to a spa or town where there was a public life such a woman could enter into, owning and managing a shop or a girls’ school, teaching in one, a profession like midwifery would be other places and provide shared experiences for women to forge connections with other women as women. I invite papers on topics like these where a woman could feel she was or indeed be connected to other women through gender experiences.

I’ve ideas for a paper for my panel too. It would be a paper on a group of women poets who also had different kinds of social connections not usual for the elite: Anne Home Hunter, great poet who wrote lyrics for Handel, who married and kept home for her genius-surgeon husband, John Hunter; Mary Chandler, who was disabled, so never married, and ran a shop in Bath, and wrote her poetry about her spinsterhood and life; and Mary Leapor, poet, servant, and cook and housekeeper (so Amanda Vickery’s books and documentary comes in here). It’s common for scholars who write about these earlier women have chosen to working and poor agricultural women when they seek out the non-elite; I’ll be looking for how non-elite (sort of on the fringe of the elite) inbetween-women lived, and forged connections.

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A cat climbing down from a servant’s room in the attic (from Part 2)

I find I’ve never written a foremother poet blog for Mary Leapor, but there is an edition of her poetry, a book on her, and essays too. So I’ll end tonight on two poems by her around the same time. This is what she wrote when her play was returned to her:

Upon her Play being returned to her, stained with Claret.

Welcome , dear Wanderer, once more!
    Thrice welcome to thy native Cell!
Within this peaceful humble Door
    Let Thou and I contented dwell!

But say, O whither hast thou rang’d?
    Why dost thou blush a Crimson Hue?
Thy fair Complexion’s greatly chang’d:
    Why, I can scarce believe ’tis you.

Then tell, my Son, O tell me, Where
    Didst thou contract this sottish Dye?
You kept ill Company, I fear,
    When distant from your Parent’s Eye.

Was it for This, O graceless Child!
    Was it for This, you learn’d to spell?
Thy Face and Credit both are spoil’d:
    Go drown thyself in yonder Well.

I wonder how thy Time was spent:
    No News (alas!) hadst thou to bring.
Hast thou not climb’d the Monument ?
    Nor seen the Lions, nor the King?

But now I’ll keep you here secure:
    No more you view the smoaky Sky:
The Court was never made (I’m sure)
    For Idiots, like Thee and I.

This she wrote as Ursula (they used these pastoral-classical-romance pseudonyms in the 18th century); it’s a burlesque on the house she served in (and doubtless had limited space in), which she called Crumble Hall. Presumably it could’ve needed fixing.

From Crumble Hall:

We sing once more, obedient to her Call,
Once more we sing; and ’tis of Crumble-Hall;
That Crumble-Hall , whose hospitable Door
Has fed the Stranger, and reliev’d the Poor;
Whose Gothic Towers, and whose rusty Spires,
Were known of old to Knights, and hungry Squires …
Of this rude Palace might a Poet sing
From cold December to returning Spring …
Tell how the Building spreads on either Hand,
And two grim Giants o’er the Portals stand;
Whose grisled Beards are neither comb’d nor shorn,
But look severe, and horribly adorn …

    Then step within—there stands a goodly Row
Of oaken Pillars—where a gallant Show
Of mimic Pears and carv’d Pomgranates twine,
With the plump Clusters of the spreading Vine …
From hence we turn to more familiar Rooms;
Whose Hangings ne’er were wrought in Grecian Looms:
Yet the soft Stools, and eke the lazy Chair,
To Sleep invite the Weary, and the Fair.

    Shall we proceed?—Yes, if you’ll break the Wall:
If not, return, and tread once more the Hall.
Up ten Stone Steps now please to drag your Toes,
And a brick Passage will succeed to those.
Here the strong Doors were aptly fram’d to hold
Sir Wary ‘s Person, and Sir Wary ‘s Gold.
Here Biron sleeps, with Books encircled round;
And him you’d guess a Student most profound.
Not so—in Form the dusty Volumes stand:
There’s few that wear the Mark of Biron ‘s Hand …

    Would you go farther?—Stay a little then:
Back thro’ the Passage—down the Steps again;
Thro’ yon dark Room—Be careful how you tread
Up these steep Stairs—or you may break your Head.
These Rooms are furnish’d amiably, and full:
Old Shoes, and Sheep-ticks bred in Stacks of Wool;
Grey Dobbin ‘s Gears, and Drenching-Horns enow;
Wheel-spokes—the Irons of a tatter’d Plough.

    No farther—Yes, a little higher, pray:
At yon small Door you’ll find the Beams of Day,
While the hot Leads return the scorching Ray.
Here a gay Prospect meets the ravish’d Eye:
Meads, Fields, and Groves, in beauteous Order lie.
From hence the Muse precipitant is hurl’d,
And drags down Mira to the nether World.

    Thus far the Palace—Yet there still remain
Unsung the Gardens, and the menial Train.

[In “her” kitchen]

    O’er-stuff’d with Beef, with Cabbage much too full,
And Dumpling too (fit Emblem of his Skull!)
With Mouth wide open, but with closing Eyes
Unwieldy Roger on the Table lies.
His able Lungs discharge a rattling Sound:
Prince barks, Spot howls, and the tall Roofs rebound.
Him Urs’la views; and, with dejected Eyes,
“Ah! Roger , Ah!” the mournful Maiden cries:
“Is wretched Urs’la then your Care no more,
That, while I sigh, thus you can sleep and snore?
Ingrateful Roger ! wilt thou leave me now?
I baste the Mutton with a chearful Heart,
Because I know my Roger will have Part.”

    Thus she—But now her Dish-kettle began
To boil and blubber with the foaming Bran.
The greasy Apron round her Hips she ties …

Strange Sounds and Forms shall teaze the gloomy Green;
And Fairy-Elves by Urs’la shall be seen:
Their new-built Parlour shall with Echoes ring:
And in their Hall shall doleful Crickets sing.

Vickery
The first of many 18th century homes photographed in At Home with the Georgians

Ellen

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