Wednesday, 25 March 2009

A Woman of Considerable Renown

I attended Marion Roberts' talk last night in the Erasmus Darwin House, which was a fascinating insight into Anna Seward and her literary importance in 18th-century Lichfield and beyond. Roberts has been studying Seward (which, she was keen to point out, should be pronounced See-ward) for 20 years, and certainly knows her stuff! See below for some pictures of the exhibition on Seward's life (apologies for the blurring, but only non-flash photography was allowed).

I loved this letter (above right) in which Seward outlined Erasmus Darwin's advice about preventing the total destruction of her teeth. (It made me smile because it confirmed what Professor Peter Martin told us in passing a few weeks ago about Seward's bad teeth). This was displayed alongside copies of her Memoirs of the Life of Dr. Darwin (the open books above left and right).

But perhaps most exciting was this case (below) containing a first edition of Seward's verse novel Louisa alongside a signed letter by the author. You remember I was recently given a first-edition copy of Louisa, which I thought might contain the author's signature (see top)? Well, I was able to take it out and compare it to the letter, and found the signatures to be the same. Marion Roberts also had a look and confirmed it was Seward's handwriting. She also showed me some photographs of an amazing mourning ring that she owns containing a minute lock of Seward's hair, about the size of a fingernail!

Photographs © Memoirs of the Celebrated Mrs Woffington.

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Emily said...

I've nominated you for an award... see my blog

Eliza Ward said...

Eeee! How exciting! So now it's not just a dream (like mine with John Wilkes); you really know that she signed it! That's amazing!

Mrs Woffington said...

Hello ladies - thanks you so much for the award Emily! I'll be getting this up on the site at the weekend, and wearing it with pride. And Eliza, yes, I was thrilled to find that out - we did wonder whether someone had merely put Seward's name on it for identification purposes, but no, it's the real thing!