Anna Seward: A Constructed Life: A Critical Biography: 5

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King-Hele does not take Seward's avid intellectual curiosity and extensive reading habit into account. Walter Scott, 3 vols.


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Edinburgh: Longman, Hurst, Rees and Orme, 2: Ann B. Shteir and Bernard V.

Edinburgh: Longman, Hurst, Rees and Orme, 6: — In return for Seward's review of his book of humorous essays, Repton presented her with a sketch he had made for her of her favourite view across the Stowe valley. Repton Esq. Addressed to Mrs. Rivington, 10— Sir Walter Scott, ms.

Eighteenth-Century Studies

Scott, as literary editor, censored the journals, removing all reference to her parents' disapproval. Scott censored this letter from the juvenile correspondence. Grierson, ed. London: J. Nicholls, Original Gothic architecture imitated forest groves, which in earlier times were consecrated to worship. Skip to Main Content.

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Search in: This Journal Anywhere. T he Irish elopers were freely accepted in literary circles as either lesbian lovers or Sapphic friends, yet were maligned in the popular press for the very same reason. Because of her single status, Seward needed to deflect similar accusations against herself, and anecdotes about lovers confirmed her heterosexuality. He and Seward were secretly engaged in following their meeting in London, but T homas Seward intercepted their love letters and ended the affair.

She instructed the female friend who accompanied her to meet privately with T emple and tell him that after he left for F rance in , she had met someone else. T emple made his formal farewell and Seward never saw him again.

‘The Excellencies of the Female Character’: Anna Seward’s Censored Sermon

Seward was not fooled, however. Anecdotes 65 anecdotes, Moll is represented as the metaphorical mouthpiece of the Lichfield community, the sum of parochial prejudice who frequently expresses outraged sentiments against the notion of female intellect. Cobb has read nothing, Cobb knows nothing; and where nothing has been put into the brain, nothing can come out of it to any purpose of rational entertainment. Seward commanded respect from her immediate circle of friends and from E rasmus D arwin, the friend who encouraged her writing when her original enthusiast, her father, had decided that she was completely talentless and wanted to see her settled with a wealthy husband.

O f course, it was impossible to unlearn what she had already absorbed or to revise her feelings of difference from her contemporaries. She wrote to E mma in February , describing the extent of her humiliation.

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After remarking that very few of her friends and acquaintances outside her close circle suspected that her intelligence was in any way superior, she continues: N ay there is a Lady, a Mrs Cobb, considered, let me tell you, one of the BelleE sprits of our City, who, from her intimacy with my Mother, from daily NLS, Sir Walter Scott MSS, , fols 26—27 February Lately, in a crouded Company, of which this Personage was one, somebody observed that D oc. D arwin said Miss Seward had genius. F rom within the boundaries of modesty and obedience, a confused and angry young woman who was in conflict with her parents and with cultural demands had at least an outlet in her letters to Emma, if she lacked a public voice at this stage.

She resumes her monologue to protest against the way people can be so easily led and that very few have the capacity to gauge talent for themselves, a sentiment repeated many times in her later condemnation of literary critics. W ith the independence of maturity, Seward was able to build on the strength that developed out of these and future conflicts and to reject the balance between duty and personal preference that she had no choice but to endure in her youth.

I write to you from the T errace. Honora sits by me, reading. The evening is sultry.


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  • We drink tea here, to catch the tardy breeze. You know we call it our green Parlour. The dear bason of a Valley, upon which it looks, was never more lovely. The umbrage, that contains its little encircling Hills, has not yet exchanged the bright green for that duskiness, which will steal upon it in a few weeks. Its fairness makes me ashamed of this defaced and ill-scribbled Epistle.

    The practice of writing well is lost with me. How soon do our bad habits become fixed, while the energy of our good ones is so apt to melt away. However, the equilibrium was set to change radically during the course of the following decade, when she faced a prospect that threatened uncertainty and disappointment. A Collection of Poems , p.

    Anna Seward was at the table, helping to entertain the company, and among the many guests was their neighbour and good friend, E rasmus D arwin. F or the previous two years, Mary Saville had been accusing her husband of infidelity, and Seward was the object of her anger, but Elizabeth and Thomas had given no credence to the rumours until now. She let him know that he had created the most bitter conflict between herself and her parents, who chose to believe the physician rather than trust the word of their daughter.

    If her father forbade Saville to visit her at the Palace, she feared the rumours would be seen as truth by all. She explains how Saville confided in her and her sympathetic reaction to his misery and how she was able to offer him comfort and support. How often have I heard people blamed for their virtues, and others commended for things which are a disgrace.

    Anna Seward: A Constructed Life - PDF Free Download

    She chose to continue her now-forbidden relationship with Saville and to brave the negative reactions of family, friends, neighbours and the rest. T he optimism of the carefree days of her juvenile years was wiped away as she entered a bleak period of confusion, tedium and lack of direction. Her moral reputation was seriously damaged. Her parents threatened her with disinheritance. Aspirations to a career as a published author began to fade. R eligion lost its solace and she suffered a crisis of faith.

    She found that she was unable to reconcile the notion of a providential God with the lifetime of punishment she believed, at the time, to be her fate. As she attempted to cope with this lost middle period of her life, she was beset by health problems. But, importantly, the few surviving letters from the time indicate that by the end of the decade, she was looking back on the most turbulent period of her life. Her two most valuable relationships, those with John Saville and Honora Sneyd, were put under intense pressure, and she found that the repercussions were, for a time, overwhelming.

    Honora, too, remained loyal. After her marriage to E dgeworth, she kept in close contact for several years with letters and visits, but there was an unexplained estrangement, probably instigated by her father, E dward Sneyd, and communication ceased. T he chilly, damp climate and marshy conditions at the Irish estate did not suit her fragile health.

    R avaged by tuberculosis, Honora died in , aged just twenty-nine. By sheer tenacity and determination, and disregarding the criticism directed at her, she survived the difficulties which assailed her. By the end of the decade, with a healthy portfolio of poems, she had moved on to pastures new, winning a prestigious poetry competition. In the meantime, as she entered a bleak period of uncertainty about her future, she found herself stifled by life in Lichfield, estranged from her parents and shunned by neighbours and acquaintances, apart from a very few close friends.

    E vents did not undermine her confidence, but fed her determination to control her own destiny. She wrote letters to her friends, more out of boredom and with a sense of confessional divulgence than from literary ambition. In this way she was able to unburden the anxieties and fears of what she considered to be the worst years of her life onto her two close friends, Mary Powys and Dorothy Sykes. In a series of mainly incomplete, unpublished letters which span the entire s, it is possible to piece together in precise detail the events of these tumultuous times and the mental anguish that Seward experienced during her progress through the decade, towards her career as a writer.

    T he importance of the two collections of letters is that they enlighten a previously unexplored period of her life. Their contents stand in stark opposition to the buoyant juvenile letters and to the polished mature correspondence, and they also tease out the links between her associations and her poetry of the time. The Powys and Sykes letters invalidate much of the guesswork of the various hypotheses. Thus rolled on time for nearly ten years — W hen it is considered that her attachment to literary pursuits bordered even upon the romantic, the merit of sacrificing them readily to the inclination of her parents, deserves our praise.

    T here is evidence in an exchange of letters between Scott and Charles Simpson, the family lawyer, after her death that he had little knowledge of her background. In her early youth, Seward worked hard to achieve excellence in both literary and domestic spheres, and it is clear from the censored sections of the juvenile letters and her literary output that she continued writing poetry.

    The received stereotype of the young Anna Seward as a dutiful, self-sacrificing daughter contentedly embroidering or mending lace, eventually trapped in Lichfield and devoting all her time to the care of sick elderly parents is far from accurate. W hile her father lived, she was a business woman administrating his financial portfolio of stocks, shares, bonds and monies, to which she later added her own profits and properties. She was a successful professional writer who handled her own copyright negotiations and publishing contracts. Her life was not one of feminine employments, but of varied, complex activity that frequently trespassed on masculine territory.

    In contrast to the artful contrivance of the juvenile letters, which encompass the s, and to the literary scheme of the published correspondence, which covers the years from to , the Powys and Sykes collections of letters are from a time when Seward was writing prolifically but clearly had no expectations of a literary career. T he letters are evidently not written for publication. T hey are not part of her letter books, which she did not begin until , nor are they part of her other organised manuscripts. W ith no self-conscious gloss, these letters are very different indeed from the ones that were published.

    There is little literary reference, and the uncharacteristic lack of attention to style, grammar and punctuation marks them as private letters to intimate friends.

    Her subject matter is remarkably personal by the standards usually associated with her. T here is no literary persona constructed here. T hese two bundles of correspondence have a refreshing clarity and a greater verity, as the letters which were designated for publication were written and rewritten with a studied awareness of their ultimate readership. And, of course, their content was devalued by the heavy editing and the censorship. Conversely, the Powys and Sykes letters articulate the minutiae of life that is not present in the published letters.

    Seward writes of her rheumatism and of worse illnesses and forwards the remedies she has discovered. She discusses needlework and encloses patterns.