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Anna Seward and Classic Lichfield   By: (1846-1922)

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[Picture: Picture of Anna Seward]


AUTHOR OF “ Izaak Walton and his Friends ,” etc.

“As long as the names of Garrick, of Johnson, and of Seward shall endure, Lichfield will live renowned.”— Clarke .

“Biography, the most interesting perhaps of every species of composition, loses all its interest with me when the shades and lights of the principal characters are not accurately and faithfully detailed.”

Extract from a letter of Sir Walter Scott to Anna Seward .



Literature and music and science have been found this year amazingly prolific in centenary commemorations of their great exemplars, as a leading article in the “Times,” for April, 1909, has lately reminded us. Yet the death in 1809 of Anna Seward, who “for many years held a high rank in the annals of British literature,” to quote the words of Sir Walter Scott, has generally passed unnoticed. It is the aim of this book to resuscitate interest in the poetess, and in the literary circle over which she reigned supreme.


Anna Seward, a daughter of the Rev. Thomas Seward, destined to become, by universal assent, the first poetess of her day in England, was born 12th December, 1747. Her mother was Elizabeth, one of the three daughters of the Rev. John Hunter (who was in 1704 appointed Head Master of Lichfield Grammar School), by his first wife, Miss Norton, a daughter of Edward Norton, of Warwick, and sister of the Rev. Thomas Norton, of Warwick. Anna Seward’s parents were married at Newton Regis Church, Warwickshire, in October, 1741. The poetess was born at Eyam in Derbyshire, where her father was then the Rector. She was baptized Anne, but she generally wrote her name Anna. Her pet name in her own family was “Nancy,” and also often “Julia.”

Mr. Seward attained some literary fame, and was co adjutor to an edition of the works of Beaumont and Fletcher. When Anna Seward was seven years old, the family removed to Lichfield, and when she was thirteen they moved into the Bishop’s Palace, “our pleasant home” as she called it, where she continued to live after her father’s death, and for the remainder of her days.

The derivation of the word “Lichfield” has excited a good deal of controversy. In Anna Seward’s time, it was generally thought to mean “the field of dead bodies,” cadaverum campus —from a number of Christian bodies which lay massacred and unburied there, in the persecution raised by Diocletian. A reference to “Notes and Queries,” in the Sixth and Eighth Series, will show an inquirer that later search throws some doubt on such derivation. St. Chad, or Ceadda (669–672) founded the diocese of Lichfield, and was its patron saint.

The Cathedral, the Venus of Gothic creation, as now existing, was built piecemeal during the 13th and early part of 14th centuries. The present Bishop’s Palace is of stone, and was erected in 1687, by Thomas Wood, who was Bishop from 1671 to 1692, on the site of the old palace, built by Bishop Walter de Langton (1296–1321). The Bishops of Lichfield had a palace at Eccleshall, and this was the one used by these dignitaries down to the time of Bishop George Augustus Selwyn, who, it may be mentioned, was born 5th April, 1809. The latter sold it, and with part of the net proceeds added two ugly wings and an ugly chapel to the palace when he came to dwell there, in order to make it a centre of religious activity in the diocese... Continue reading book >>

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