Tag Archives: writing

Elizabeth Hands, “A Poem, on the Supposition of an Advertisement Appearing in a Morning Paper, of the Publication of a Volume of Poems, by a Servant-Maid”

ELIZABETH HANDS

 “A Poem, on the Supposition of an Advertisement Appearing in a Morning Paper, of the Publication of a Volume of Poems, by a Servant-Maid”

 

The tea-kettle bubbled, the tea things were set,
The candles were lighted, the ladies were met;
The how d’ye’s were over, and entering bustle,
The company seated, and silks ceas’d to rustle:
The great Mrs. Consequence open’d her fan;                                                         5
And thus the discourse in an instant began:
(All affected reserve, and formality scorning,)
I suppose you all saw in the paper this morning,
A volume of Poems advertis’d—’tis said
They’re produced by the pen of a poor Servant Maid.                                         10
A servant write verses! says Madam Du Bloom;
Pray what is the subject—a Mop, or a Broom?
He, he, he, —says Miss Flounce; I suppose we shall see
An Ode on a Dishclout—what else can it be?
Says Miss Coquettilla, why ladies so tart?                                                                15
Perhaps Tom the Footman has fired her heart;
And she’ll tell us how charming he looks in new clothes,
And how nimble his hand moves in brushing the shoes;
Or how the last time that he went to May-Fair,
He bought her some sweethearts of ginger-bread ware.                                      20
For my part I think, says old lady Marr-joy,
A servant might find herself other employ:
Was she mine I’d employ her as long as ’twas light,
And send her to bed without candle at night.
Why so? says Miss Rhymer, displeas’d; I protest                                                      25
’Tis pity a genius should be so deprest!
What ideas can such low-bred creatures conceive,
Says Mrs. Noworthy, and laught in her sleeve.
Says old Miss Prudella, if servants can tell
How to write to their mothers, to say they are well,                                                30
And read of a Sunday the Duty of Man;
Which is more I believe than one half of them can;
I think ’tis much properer they should rest there,
Than be reaching at things so much out of their sphere.
Says old Mrs. Candour, I’ve now got a maid                                                              35
That’s the plague of my life—a young gossiping jade;
There’s no end of the people that after her come,
And whenever I’m out, she is never at home;
I’d rather ten times she would sit down and write,
Than gossip all over the town ev’ry night.                                                                  40
Some whimsical trollop most like, says Miss Prim,
Has been scribbling of nonsense, just out of a whim,
And conscious it neither is witty or pretty,
Conceals her true name, and ascribes it to Betty.
I once had a servant myself, says Miss Pines,                                                            45
That wrote on a Wedding, some very good lines:
Says Mrs. Domestic, and when they were done,
I can’t see for my part what use they were on;
Had she wrote a receipt, to’ve instructed you how
To warm a cold breast of veal, like a ragou,                                                              50
Or to make a cowslip wine, that would pass for Champaign;
It might have been useful, again and again.
On the sofa was old lady Pedigree plac’d,
She own’d that for poetry she had no taste,
That the study of heraldry was more in fashion,                                                     55
And boasted she knew all the crests in the nation.
Says Mrs. Routella, —Tom, take out the urn,
And stir up the fire, you see it don’t burn.
The tea-things remov’d, and the tea-table gone,
The card-tables brought, and the cards laid thereon,                                            60
The ladies ambitious for each others crown,
Like courtiers contending for honours sat down.

NOTES:

Title Supposition “Position laid down;…imagination yet unproved” (Johnson).

13 Flounce “To express displeasure or ill-temper by agitated movements” (OED).

14 Dishclout Dishcloth.

15 Coquettilla A play on the word “coquette,” “a girl who endeavors to attract notice” (Johnson).

19 May-Fair A district in London, “Mayfair was developed from the mid-17th century, and its proximity to St. James’s Palace made it a fashionable neighborhood” (Encyclopedia Britannica). Mayfair, with its growing “aristocratic village[s],” attracted buyers and sellers to popular “modish shopping centre[s],” such as Regents Park and Bond Street, which were places known for “carriage folk” (Richardson, “Shops and Shopkeeping Throughout the Ages,” p. 616).

21 Marr “To hamper or hinder” (OED).

26 deprest “To humble; to deject; to sink” (Johnson); “to lower in station, fortune, or influence” (OED).

27 low-bred “Of humble origin or social statue; not respectable of welcome in good society” (OED).

31 Duty of Man Short title for The Whole Duty of Man: Laid Down in a Plain and Familiar Way for the Use of All but Especially the Meanest Reader, “first published anonymously in 1658 and variously attributed to Lady Dorothy Pakington, Archbishop Richard Sterne, Bishop John Fell, Humphrey Henchman and others, although now generally attributed to Richard Allestree” (ESTC); “the dominant book of religious instruction throughout the eighteenth century” (Lehmberg, Cathedrals Under Siege, p. 115)

34 sphere “A standard of comparison to denote a great difference in rank, intelligence, etc.” (OED).

35 Candour “Sweetness of temper; purity of mind; openness; ingenuity; kindness” (Johnson).

36 jade “A term of reprobation applied to a woman” (OED).

41 trollop “An untidy or slovenly woman; a slut; a morally loose woman” (OED).

50 ragou Alternate spelling of “ragout,” “a highly seasoned dish, usually consisting of meat cut into small pieces and stewed with vegetables” (OED).

51 cowslip wine A wine made from cowslip-blossoms,“a well-known wild plant in pastures… with drooping fragrant yellow flowers” (OED).

53 Pedigree “The system of social rank based on genealogy” (OED).

55 heraldry “Heraldic title, rank, or precedence” (OED).

56 crests “The ornament of the helmet in heraldry” (Johnson), “also used separately, as a cognizance, upon articles of personal property, as a seal, plate, note-paper, etc.” (OED).

57 Routella The root word, “rout,” means“to cry; to roar; to bellow; to shout” (OED).

SOURCE: The Death of Amnon: A Poem. With an Appendix: Containing Pastorals, and Other Poetical Pieces (Coventry, 1789), pp. 47-50. [Google Books]

Edited by Katarina Wagner

 

Clara Reeve, “To my Friend Mrs. ——, On Her Holding an Argument in Favour of the Natural Equality of Both the Sexes”

[CLARA REEVE]

“To my Friend Mrs.——,
On Her Holding an Argument in Favour of the Natural Equality of Both the Sexes.
Written in the Year MDCCLVI.”

 

Silence best serves to disapprove
False reasoning in those we love.
Tho’ t’other day I held my tongue,
I thought you greatly in the wrong;
How could you so unfairly try’d                                                                         5
With no one present to decide,
Argue the best, that woman can
Pretend to triumph o’er a man?
I once was half of your opinion,
But now subscribe to their dominion.                                                                10
The same unchanging law that fixes,
Eternal difference of sexes,
Has for the wisest ends assign’d
Due bounds to either sex’s mind.
Your heart with argument elated,                                                                         15
Thinks both were equal when created,
And holds its own imagination,
That all depends on cultivation:
But to speak plainly, in reality
I don’t believe in this equality,                                                                                 20
But think that partial heav’n design’d,
To them the more capacious mind;
And that their brains, dame Nature’s college,
And best receptacles for knowledge.
Lend me my friend a while your hand,                                                                     25
I’ll lead you over classic land,
To hear what sages fam’d of old
On this nice subject shall unfold.
Thus much may serve for introduction,
Leading to pleasure and instruction.                                                                            30

Not every one can write that chuses,
But those invited by the Muses:
These are nine wit-inspiring lasses,
Who dwell about the hill Parnassus.
Their patron whom they serve and follow,                                                                   35
A beardless youth—the Greek Apollo—
Still lovely, active, young, and gay,
He drives the chariot of the day,
Teaches these girls polite behaviours,
For which they grant him certain favours:                                                                     40
(But modest ones you may be sure,
For they are virgins chaste and pure.)
He leads their concerts, which they fill
With wond’rous harmony and skill;
For he’s the prince of all musicians,                                                                                 45
Beside the greatest of physicians.
He finds them music for their frolics,
And cures their head-achs, nerves, and cholics.

From out the side of this fam’d mountain,
Rises a wit-inspiring fountain;                                                                                            50
Which murmurs music as it plays,
Laurels its banks produce and bays.
Here all the scholars drink their fill,
And then attempt to climb the hill;
(But first from trees the boughs they take,                                                                      55
And garlands for their heads they make;
Whose strange effects, to us a wonder,
Secure them from the power of thunder:)
With pain and care they clamber up,
And very rarely gain the top:                                                                                               60                     But if they reach the Muses seat,
They have assign’d them a retreat.
Apollo’s self records their name,
And gives it to the charge of Fame;
Who first displays to earth and sky,                                                                                   65
Then folds it up and lays it by,
In her immortal library.
Now comes our case.—The ancients tell us,
These nymphs were always fond of fellows;
For by their records it is clear,                                                                                              70
Few women ever have been there.
Not that it contradicts their laws,
But they assign the following cause;
The sacred Heliconian spring,
Of which old poets sweetly sing:                                                                                           75
(Tho’ modern writers only flout it,
Alledging they can do without it)
Produces very strange effects,
On the weak brains of our soft sex;
Works worse vagaries in the fancy,                                                                                        80
Then Holland’s gin, or royal Nancy.
In short, to what you will compare it,
Few women’s heads have strength to bear it.
See some with strong and lively fancies,
Write essays, novels, and romances.                                                                                      85
Others by serious cares and pains,
With politics o’erset their brains.
Children, some call themselves of Phoebus,
By virtue of a pun, or rebus.
Some much affect the strain satyric,                                                                                       90
And others all for panegyric.
In all, and each of these you find,
Strong markings of the female mind,
Still superficial, light and various;
Loose, unconnected, and precarious:                                                                                      95
Life and vivacity I grant,
But weight and energy they want;
That strength that fills the manly page,
And bids it live to future age.

Now as it oft hath been evinc’d,                                                                                          100
We do not love to be convinc’d;
So if conviction give you grief,
Restriction may afford relief.
Exceptions to all gen’ral rules,
Are still allow’d of in the schools:                                                                                                 105
And Phoebus’s favours to the fair
Are not impossible, tho’ rare.
In Fame’s great library, we’re told,
Some female names there are enroll’d;
Matrons of Greece, other of Rome,                                                                                              110
And some, to please you, nearer home:
Moderns there are, France brags of many,
And England shews as good as any.
See our Orinda swell the page,
Carter, and Lenox grace this age;                                                                                                  115
But leaving these consign’d to Fame,
Lusus Naturae is their name.
As some among the men we find,
Effeminate in form and mind;
Some women masculine are seen                                                                                                 120
In mind, behavior, and in mien:
For Nature seldom kindly mixes,
The qualities of both the sexes.
These instances are sometimes quoted,
As owls are shown, but to be hooted.                                                                                           125
Dare now to ope your eyes and see,
These truths exemplified in me.
What tho’ while yet an infant young,
The numbers trembled on my tongue;
As youth advanc’d, I dar’d aspire,                                                                                                    130
And trembling struck the heavenly lyre.
What by my talents have I gained?
By those I lov’d to be disdain’d,
By some despis’d, by others fear’d,
Envy’d by fools, by witlings jeer’d.                                                                                                    135
See what success my labours crown’d,
By birds and beasts alike disown’d.
Those talents that were once my pride,
I find it requisite to hide;
For what in man is most respected,                                                                                                 140
In woman’s form shall be rejected.
Thus have I prov’d to demonstration,
The fallacy of your oration.
(You need not let the fellows know it,
They’ll praise the wit, but damn the poet.)                                                                                      145
The point illustrated, my friend,
Brings my long story to its end.
When you have read it o’er at leisure,
Keep it—or burn it—at your pleasure.

NOTES:

Title Mrs. The addressee of this poem, Mrs. ——, is unknown, although the volume is dedicated to a Mrs. Stratford.

22 capacious “Able to hold much; roomy, spacious, wide” used here to mean men have “larger” intellectual capacity (OED).

32 Muses The nine Greek goddesses of “poetry, philosophy, and inspiration” (Oxford Companion to Classical Civilization).

 34 Parnassus “Mount Parnassus,” regarded as the “source of literary, esp. poetic, inspiration” (OED).

 36 Apollo Greek god of “poetry and music, the sun, and medicine” (OCCC).

 48 nerves “Disordered or heightened sensitivity; anxiety, fearfulness, tension, nervousness”; cholics Short for “melancholic,” referring to a state of “sadness or depression” (OED).

 49 fam’d mountain Parnassus [see line 34].

52 Laurels “To adorn with the leaves of the bay tree, which signified victory or poetic distinction” (OED).

 74 Heliconian “Mt. Helicon” was another home for the Muses, the “Vale of the Muses” (OCCC).

 80 vagaries “Wandering or devious journeys” (OED); fancy “Imagination” (OED).

 81 Holland’s gin Also known as “geneva or genever, a grain spirit from Belgium or the Netherlands flavored with juniper”; Nancy “Nants brandy or Nants wine,” produced in the Nantes region of France (OED).

 88 Phoebus Apollo [see line 36].

89 rebus A representation of a word using “pictures or symbols” (OED).

 90 satyric Archaic spelling of “satiric.”

 91 panegyric “Writing meant to praise a person or thing” (OED).

 96 vivacity “Intellectual or mental animation, acuteness, or vigour” (OED).

 105 still Originally “still’d,” likely printer’s error.

 114 Orinda Katherine Phillips (1631-1664), poet and translator of two plays, wrote under the alias “Orinda” in her letters.

115 Carter Elizabeth Carter (1717-1806), famed translator and poet, would translate the works of Epictetus from Greek in 1758; Lenox Charlotte Lennox (1730-1804), author of The Female Quixote (1752).

117 lusus naturae Latin for “a freak of nature” (OED).

 120 mien “Look or manner” (OED).

 131 lyre A lyre is the favored instrument of Apollo (OCCC).

135 witlings Someone who pretends to be “more clever” than they are (OED).

 139 Reeve would revise her earlier views on women’s writing in her prefatory “Address to the Reader” published in this volume: “I formerly believed…my sex was an insuperable objection [to writing] …but now am convinced of the mistake, by daily examples to the contrary,” and she offers the collection as a “general apology” (xi).

143 fallacy “falsehood” (OED).

 Source: Original Poems on Several Occasions (London, 1769), pp. 4-11. [Google Books]

 Edited by: John Paul Castillo