Anna Sawyer: Poems on various subjects. With notes, historical and explanatory. Birmingham: printed for the author; by Swinney and Hawkins, 1801. WPRP 146.
Anna Sawyer brings visual souvenirs of different landmarks in the United Kingdom to life in this collection of poetry. In nearly eighty pages, Sawyer explores the deep valleys of Chedder, the picturesque Kenilworth Castle and its battleground, and the ancient ruins of Glastonbury Abbey. Though the book anchors its contents to these historical British destinations, it is peppered with other kinds of pieces, like the poem “Lines,” in which the poet describes a picture of her husband from his boyhood: “Those are the features, those are the smiles/that first engaged my virgin heart/I feel the penciled image true/I feel the mimic pow’r of art” (37). Sawyer also expresses her affinity for the gothic in poems such as “On a Painted Window, Which exhibits an amiable young Lady rising from the Dead.” In another poem “On the Present Fashionable Female Dresses,” she proclaims her disdain for the flimsiness of women’s popular garments.
Sawyer did not let her poetry stand alone. Rather, she appends each poem with long, substantive, and opinionated footnotes that sometimes span an entire page and explicate topics ranging from the history of cosmetics to the local mythology and natural features of the cave at Wokey Hole, allegedly the home of a witch.
Other poems in the compilation include “Sunday Schools” and “An address to Millers, Badgers, and the Whole Fraternity of Dealers in Corn and Flour.”
The cover is a simple envelope of a thick piece of paper and its pages are loosely bound. On the inside cover, the editor left a note to readers expressing her gratitude for the “shortened” edition of this title, and the frontispiece image shows a copperplate press engraving of Chedder Cliffs—the opening poem. Though Sawyer’s work is rarely studied today, it was apparently well-received during the Romantic era, as shown by the list of nearly eight-hundred subscribers at the end of the volume.