Marguerite, Countess of Blessington, (née Power): Rambles in Waltham Forest. A Stranger's Contribution to the Triennial Sale for the Benefit of the Wanstead Lying-in Charity. Print. by J.L. Cox, 1827.
Born in Ireland in 1789, the author was forced into marriage at the young age of fourteen but left her husband after just several months. She later married Charles John Gardiner, second Viscount Mountjoy and first earl of Blessington. The two moved to London where she became a fashionable hostess, associating with such literary figures as Charles Dickens. She befriended Lord Byron during an 1823 trip to Genoa, leading to the publication of her famous Journal of Conversations with Lord Byron, which appeared in installments in New Monthly Magazine from 1832 to 1833 (ODNB).
As with many of her early works, Rambles in Waltham Forest was published under a pseudonym, in this case Miss H., and only attributed to Blessington after her death (IWPRP). The preface to the work suggests that the poet and lithographic artist were one and the same; the prints are all signed ‘C.M.H’, perhaps a combination of the author’s own initials and her pseudonym. In an apologetic tone, the preface notes:
The justice of Criticism is deprecated, as far as regards the Lithographic Prints which accompany this little poem, if poem it may presume to be called. They were a first trial in Lithographic Engraving; the time for drawing them was exceedingly limited, and the materials originally used, in the Author’s inexperience very inferior.
The lithographic print process was invented in the late-eighteenth century and taken up by commercial printers in the 1820s. The process involves drawing on limestone with a wax crayon and takes advantage of the ability of waxy surfaces to be receptive to ink while repelling water (Benson, 50). As with the improvements in the wood engraving process in the late-eighteenth century, lithography allowed for a relatively inexpensive proliferation of imagery during the Romantic era.