autumn leaves: lonely in lichfield

She was one of Josiah Wedgwood’s friends. Part of what certainly had to be the most brilliant group in England in the eighteenth-century, and quite possibly the most eccentric. Some are forgotten today like Anna Seward, and she was certainly in the eccentric section…

—Anna Seward
by Tilly Kettle
oil on canvas, 1762
29 in. x 24 1/2 in. (737 mm x 622 mm)
Purchased, 1924—Throughout her literary life she contributed tirelessly to periodicals, especially the Gentleman’s Magazine, thus keeping herself in constant public view; as Roger Lonsdale writes, ‘From her headquarters in Lichfield Close, she projected herself for many years as perhaps the most prominent and formidable woman writer of the later century’, though ‘before her death her verse was being increasingly criticized for affectation, prolixity, and obscurity’ .—Read More: image:

The poetess Anna Seward was called by her admirer’s the “Swan of Lichfield,” and by the sardonic Horace Walpole a “harmonious virgin.” His estimate is the one we accept today.

Eyam by Anna Seward:

For one short week I leave, with anxious heart,
Source of my filial cares, the Full of Days,
Lur’d by the promise of Harmonic Art
To breathe her Handel’s soul-exalting lays.
Pensive I trace the Derwent’s amber wave,
Foaming through umbrag’d banks, or view it lave
The soft, romantic vallies, high o’er-peer’d
By hills and rocks, in savage grandeur rear’d.
Not two short miles from thee, can I refrain
Thy haunts, my native EYAM, long unseen?—
Thou and thy lov’d inhabitants, again
Shall meet my transient gaze.—Thy rocky screen,
Thy airy cliffs I mount; and seek thy shade,
Thy roofs, that brow the steep, romantic glade;
But, while on me the eyes of Friendship glow,
Swell my pain’d sighs, my tears spontaneous flow.

In scenes paternal, not beheld through years,
Nor view’d, till now, but by a Father’s side,
Well might the tender, tributary tears,
From keen regrets of duteous fondness glide!
Its pastor, to this human-flock no more
Shall the long flight of future days restore!
Distant he droops,—and that once gladdening eye
Now languid gleams, e’en when his friends are nigh.

Through this known walk, where weedy gravel lies,
Rough, and unsightly;—by the long, coarse grass
Of the once smooth, and vivid green, with sighs
To the deserted Rectory I pass;—
Stray through the darken’d chambers’ naked bound,
Where childhood’s earliest, liveliest bliss I found;
How chang’d, since erst, the lightsome walls beneath,
The social joys did their warm comforts breathe!
…Read More:


(see link at end)…Seward’s works include Elegy on Captain Cook; to which is added An ode to the sun (1780), Monody on the Death of Major André (1781), and Louisa: A Poetical Novel in Four Epistles (1784), as well as Memoirs of the Life of Dr. Darwin (1804), a biography of Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles Darwin. Her Collection of Original Sonnets appeared in 1799. Seward is often referred to as the Swan of Lichfield, and many of her poems are concerned with romantic themes. Read More:

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