Anna Seward: Llangollen Vale, With Other Poems. London: Printed for G. Sael, 1796. WPRP 91.
Anna Seward (1742-1809) was reputed to have been an especially precocious child able to read Shakespeare and Milton at the age of three. Encouraged by her father, Thomas Seward canon residentiary of Lichfield and author of “The Female Right to Literature” (1748), young Anna might well have served as inspiration for her father’s poem inscribed to “a young Lady from Florence”:
Whilst you, Athenia, with assiduous toil
Reap the rich fruits of Learning’s fertile soil (Seward in Dodsley, 1758)
By the 1770s, the Seward household had become the literary center of Lichfield (Bowerbank; Cooper, Bancroft, ODNB). Written late in Seward’s life, Llangollen Vale with other Poems (1796) celebrates a similar haven in the home of Lady Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby. The two Ladies of Llangollen were refugees who had fled unhappy lives in Ireland dressed as men and armed with pistols (ODNB). Their lives filled with literary studies, good works, and gardening drew admirers, including William Wordsworth, Robert Southey, and Seward. Seward puts Butler and Ponsonby alongside the historical importance of Owen Glendower when writing about the Vale in British history and literature:
Luxuriant Vale, thy Country’s early boast,
What time great Glendour gave thy scenes to Fame;
Taught the proud numbers of the English Host,
How vain their vaunted force, when Freedom’s flame
Dir’d him to brave the Myriads he abhorr’d,
Wing’ his unerring shaft, and edg’d his victor sword.
Thro’ Eleanora, and her Zara’s mind.
Early tho’ genius, taste, and fancy flow’d
Tho’ all the graceful Arts their powers combin’d,
And her last polish brilliant Life bestow’d,
The lavish Promiser, in Youth’s soft morn,
Pride, Pomp, and Love, her friend, the sweet Enthusiasts scorn.