Blamire, Susanna, 1747-1794. The Poetical Works of Miss Susanna Blamire “The muse of Cumberland.” Now for the first time collected by Henry Lonsdale, M.D. with a preface, memoir, and notes by Patrick Maxwell, ... Edinburgh: John Menzies, 61 Princes Street; R. Tyas, London; D. Robertson, Glasgow; and C. Thurnam, Carlisle. MDCCCXLII., 1842.
- THE POETICAL WORKS OF MISS SUSANNA BLAMIRE.
- THE POETICAL WORKS OF MISS SUSANNA BLAMIRE "THE MUSE OF CUMBERLAND." NOW FOR THE FIRST TIME COLLECTED BY HENRY LONSDALE, M.D. WITH A PREFACE, MEMOIR, AND NOTES BY PATRICK MAXWELL, TRANSLATOR OF MME. DARD'S NARRATIVE OF THE PICARD FAMILY, AND WRECK OF THE FRENCH FRIGATE MEDUSA.
- PREFACE, Page ix
- MEMOIR, xv
- Stoklewath; or, the Cumbrian Village, 1
- The Lily of the Valley, chosen the emblem of Innocence, 40
- The Invitation to Two Sisters, 43
- The Farewell to Affection, 46
- The Recall to Affection, 49
- To a Lady, who frequently withdrew from company, 52
- The Lily's triumph over the Rose, 54
- May not the Love of Praise, & c. 55
- The Bower of Elegance, 61
- The Adieu and Recall to Love, 69
- To-morrow, 71
- Address to Health, 72
- The Nun's Return to the World, 77
- On Imagined Happiness in humble stations 86
- Written on a gloomy day, in sickness, 88
- To a Lady who went into the country in April, 90
- Moonlight, 91
- Bride-Cake, 92
- Spring, 96
- Pity's descent to Earth, and Advice to Friendship, 106
- On the dangerous illness of my Friend Mrs L. 113
- To the Flower Love-in-idleness, and a Petition to the Fairies, & c. 116
- [Page vi]On Collins's Ode on the Passions, as recited by Mrs Esten, Page 125
- Letters of the Lovers. Letter I. 127
- Letter II. 129
- Letter III. 133
- Edwin and Alicia, 136
- Address to Miss J. Gale on her Marriage, 141
- A Petition to April, 144
- An Elegy on the Death of Mrs Dacre, 147
- Hope, 148
- Epistle to her Friends at Gartmore, 153
- The Descent of Pity, 159
- A Call to Hope, 161
- Written in a Churchyard, 164
- An Epistle to Miss I. Graham of Gartmore, 167
- A Caution to Miss B. 170
- The Chelsea Pensioners, 175
- Nay, nay, Censor Time, 177
- Though Bacchus may boast, 178
- In the dream of the moment, 179
- When the sunbeams of joy, 181
- The Carlisle Hunt, 182
- In that eye where expression, 184
- In the search of good humour, 185
- Come, mortals, enliven the hour, 186
- When the soft tear steals silently, 186
- O where is the splendour, 187
- O bid me not to wander, 188
- What ails this Heart o' Mine? 189
- I've gotten a rock, I've gotten a reel, 191
- When home we return, 193
- O why should mortals suffer care, 194
- Old Harry's return, 196
- [Page vii]The Nabob, Page 198
- The Siller Croun, 203
- The Waefu 'Heart, 205
- The toiling day his task has duin, 207
- Wey, Ned, man, 208
- The Cumberland Scold, 211
- Barley Broth, 213
- The Meeting, 214
- We've hed sec a durdum, 216
- Auld Robin Forbes, 218
- The Soldier's return, 220
- Again maun absence chill my soul, 223
- On the marriage of Miss J. Gale with the Rev. F. Graham, 225
- 'Twas when the sun slid down yon hill, 226
- The auld carle wad tak me fain, 228
- I'm Tibby Fowler o' the glen, 230
- Ae night in dark December, 232
- Had my Daddie left me gear enough, 233
- O Jenny dear, lay by your pride, 234
- Dear Nancy, 236
- O Jenny dear, the word is gane, 238
- O Jenny dear, I've courted lang, 240
- Behold my Amanda, 241
- O there is not a sharper dart, 242
- I am of a temper fixed as a decree, 243
- When severest foes impending, 244
- I'll hae a new coatie, 244
- O dinna think, my bonnie lass, 246
- Now Sandy maun awa, 247
- The loss of the Roebuck, 249
- [Page viii]A cure for love, Page 250
- When night's dark mantle, 251
- O Donald! ye are just the man, 252
- The Carrier Pigeon, 257
- The Sailor Lad's return, 258
- The Village Club, 261
- MEMOIR OF MISS SUSANNA BLAMIRE.
- POETICAL WORKS.
- STOKLEWATH; OR, THE CUMBRIAN VILLAGE. / Susanna Blamire
- THE LILY OF THE VALLEY, CHOSEN THE EMBLEM OF INNOCENCE. / Susanna Blamire
- THE INVITATION. TO TWO SISTERS. / Susanna Blamire
- THE FAREWELL TO AFFECTION. / Susanna Blamire
- THE RECALL TO AFFECTION. / Susanna Blamire
- TO A LADY, WHO FREQUENTLY WITHDREW FROM COMPANY. / Susanna Blamire
- THE LILY'S TRIUMPH OVER THE ROSE. / Susanna Blamire
- MAY NOT THE LOVE OF PRAISE BE AN INCENTIVE TO VIRTUE? / Susanna Blamire
- THE BOWER OF ELEGANCE. ADDRESSED TO A VERY ACCOMPLISHED WOMAN. / Susanna Blamire
- THE ADIEU AND RECALL TO LOVE. / Susanna Blamire
- TO-MORROW. WRITTEN DURING SICKNESS. / Susanna Blamire
- ADDRESS TO HEALTH. — 1784. / Susanna Blamire
- THE NUN'S RETURN TO THE WORLD, BY THE DECREE OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF FRANCE, FEBRUARY, 1790. / Susanna Blamire
- ON IMAGINED HAPPINESS IN HUMBLE STATIONS. / Susanna Blamire
- WRITTEN ON A GLOOMY DAY, IN SICKNESS. THACKWOOD, 4TH JUNE, 1786. / Susanna Blamire
- TO A LADY WHO WENT INTO THE COUNTRY IN APRIL. / Susanna Blamire
- MOONLIGHT. / Susanna Blamire
- BRIDE-CAKE. / Susanna Blamire
- SPRING. APRIL, 1786. / Susanna Blamire
- PITY'S DESCENT TO EARTH, AND ADVICE TO FRIENDSHIP. / Susanna Blamire
- ON THE DANGEROUS ILLNESS OF MY FRIEND MRS L. 13TH MAY, 1788. / Susanna Blamire
- TO THE FLOWER LOVE-IN-IDLENESS, AND A PETITION TO THE FAIRIES TO BRING INDIFFERENCE. / Susanna Blamire
- ON COLLINS'S ODE ON THE PASSIONS, AS RECITED BY MRS ESTEN / Susanna Blamire
- LETTERS OF THE LOVERS. / Susanna Blamire
- EDWIN AND ALICIA. A TALE. / Susanna Blamire
- ADDRESS TO MISS J. GALE ON HER MARRIAGE WITH THE REV. F. GRAHAM, RECTOR OF ARTHURET. / Susanna Blamire
- A PETITION TO APRIL. WRITTEN DURING SICKNESS, 1793. / Susanna Blamire
- AN ELEGY ON THE DEATH OF MRS DACRE. / Susanna Blamire
- HOPE. / Susanna Blamire
- EPISTLE TO HER FRIENDS AT GARTMORE. / Susanna Blamire
- THE DESCENT OF PITY. 20TH NOVEMBER, 1781. / Susanna Blamire
- A CALL TO HOPE. 22D MAY, 1792. / Susanna Blamire
- WRITTEN IN A CHURCHYARD, ON SEEING A NUMBER OF CATTLE GRAZING IN IT. / Susanna Blamire
- AN EPISTLE TO MISS ISABELLA GRAHAM OF GARTMORE. / Susanna Blamire
- A CAUTION TO MISS B. / Susanna Blamire
- THE CHELSEA PENSIONERS. / Susanna Blamire
- NAY, NAY, CENSOR TIME. / Susanna Blamire
- THOUGH BACCHUS MAY BOAST. / Susanna Blamire
- IN THE DREAM OF THE MOMENT. / Susanna Blamire
- WHEN THE SUNBEAMS OF JOY. / Susanna Blamire
- FOR THE CARLISLE HUNT. November, 1788 / Susanna Blamire
- IN THAT EYE WHERE EXPRESSION. / Susanna Blamire
- IN THE SEARCH OF GOOD HUMOUR. / Susanna Blamire
- COME, MORTALS, ENLIVEN THE HOUR. / Susanna Blamire
- WHEN THE SOFT TEAR STEALS SILENTLY. / Susanna Blamire
- O WHERE IS THE SPLENDOUR. / Susanna Blamire
- O BID ME NOT TO WANDER. Written when earnestly entreated to go to the South of France for the recovery of her health. / Susanna Blamire
- WHAT AILS THIS HEART O' MINE! / Susanna Blamire
- I'VE GOTTEN A ROCK, I'VE GOTTEN A REEL. / Susanna Blamire
- WHEN HOME WE RETURN. / Susanna Blamire
- O WHY SHOULD MORTALS SUFFER CARE. / Susanna Blamire
- OLD HARRY'S RETURN. / Susanna Blamire
- THE NABOB. / Susanna Blamire
- THE SILLER CROUN. / Susanna Blamire
- THE WAEFU' HEART. / Susanna Blamire
- SONGS IN THE CUMBERLAND DIALECT.
- THE TOILING DAY HIS TASK HAS DUIN. / Susanna Blamire
- WEY, NED, MAN! / Susanna Blamire
- THE CUMBERLAND SCOLD. / Susanna Blamire; Catherine Gilpin
- BARLEY BROTH. / Susanna Blamire
- THE MEETING. / Susanna Blamire
- WE'VE HED SEC A DURDUM. / Susanna Blamire
- AULD ROBIN FORBES. / Susanna Blamire
- MISCELLANEOUS SONGS.
- THE SOLDIER'S RETURN. / Susanna Blamire
- AGAIN MAUN ABSENCE CHILL MY SOUL. / Susanna Blamire
- ON THE MARRIAGE OF MISS JOHANNA GALE WITH THE REV. P. GRAHAM, RECTOR OF ARTHURET. 18TH FEBRUARY, 1792. / Susanna Blamire
- 'TWAS WHEN THE SUN SLID DOWN YON HILL. / Susanna Blamire
- THE AULD CARLE WAD TAK ME FAIN. / Susanna Blamire
- I'M TIBBY FOWLER O' THE GLEN. / Susanna Blamire
- AE NIGHT IN DARK DECEMBER. / Susanna Blamire
- HAD MY DADDIE LEFT ME GEAR ENOUGH. / Susanna Blamire
- O JENNY DEAR. / Susanna Blamire
- DEAR NANCY. / Susanna Blamire
- O JENNY DEAR, THE WORD IS GANE. / Susanna Blamire
- O JENNY DEAR, I'VE COURTED LANG. / Susanna Blamire
- BEHOLD, MY AMANDA. / Susanna Blamire
- O THERE IS NOT A SHARPER DART. / Susanna Blamire
- I AM OF A TEMPER FIXED AS A DECREE. / Susanna Blamire
- WHEN SEVEREST FOES IMPENDING. / Susanna Blamire
- I'LL HAE A NEW COATIE. / Susanna Blamire
- O DINNA THINK, MY BONNIE LASS. / Susanna Blamire
- NOW SANDY MAUN AWA. / Susanna Blamire
- THE LOSS OF THE ROEBUCK. / Susanna Blamire
- A CURE FOR LOVE. / Susanna Blamire
- WHEN NIGHT'S DARK MANTLE. / Susanna Blamire
- O DONALD! YE ARE JUST THE MAN. / Susanna Blamire
- THE CARRIER PIGEON.
- THE SAILOR LAD'S RETURN.
- THE VILLAGE CLUB. / Catherine Gilpin
- P. 71, l. 15 from bottom, for Hopes read Hope's
- P. 73, l. 5 from top, for wreath read wealth
THE POETICAL WORKS OF MISS SUSANNA BLAMIRE.
"To bid the memory of the great and good live for ever — to say to the name of Genius, 'ESTO PERPETUUM' — is the very grandest fiat that human power can issue; nor does man ever seem more deserving of immortality himself, than when, as far as in him lies, he thus worthily confers it upon others. " —Speech of Mr Moore at the Freemasons 'Tavern, London, 5th June, 1819, in order to promote a Subscription for a Monument to Burns at Edinburgh.
THE POETICAL WORKS OF MISS SUSANNA BLAMIRE "THE MUSE OF CUMBERLAND." NOW FOR THE FIRST TIME COLLECTED BY HENRY LONSDALE, M.D. WITH A PREFACE, MEMOIR, AND NOTES BY PATRICK MAXWELL, TRANSLATOR OF MME. DARD'S NARRATIVE OF THE PICARD FAMILY, AND WRECK OF THE FRENCH FRIGATE MEDUSA.
EDINBURGH: JOHN MENZIES, 61 PRINCES STREET; R. TYAS, LONDON; D. ROBERTSON, GLASGOW; AND C. THURNAM, CARLISLE. MDCCCXLII.
PRINTED BY MACPHERSON & SYME, 31 EAST ROSE LANE.
I WAS led in early life to admire the writings of Miss Blamire, and the first task I imposed on myself to perform was to collect them. Being born in India, and my father belonging to the Indian Army, the imagery and sentiment contained in "The Nabob," perpetually occupied my mind as I brooded over the fond hope of his revisiting his native land; in this I was doomed to disappointment; — not so however in the eventual accomplishment of my early research, though that was long deferred. Many years passed away, and I found myself in possession of only the three lyrics by which she is so generally known, "The Nabob," "What ails this heart o' mine," and "The Chelsea Pensioners." The next thing which fell in my way, was what may be entitled "The Carrier Pigeon," commencing thus:
This little lyric, which will be found in the Appendix, I copied from "The Mason's Magazine," if my memory serves me rightly, for I have no note of the exact title of the work, nor of the year in which it was published; it is there said however to be by Miss Blamire. A considerable while afterwards I found it in the "Scots[Page x] Magazine" for 1805, p. 336, where it is attributed to Lady Anne Lindsay, the celebrated author of "Auld Robin Gray;" but I cannot help thinking Miss Blamire has a superior claim to it.
My kind and amiable friend Miss Russell of Knottyholm, Canobie, daughter of Dr Russell, author of "Ancient and Modern Europe," in one of her excursions to Carlisle learned from her friend Mrs Lawrie, that the late Mr Robert Anderson, the ingenious author of "Cumberland Ballads," was in possession of many of Miss Blamire's writings; she accordingly took the trouble to procure me his address, and I wrote to him twice concerning them, but received no answer. However, in August 1829, I went into Cumberland for the express purpose of pursuing my researches, and fortunately obtained an interview with Mr Anderson. He then informed me he was in possession of fifteen songs and one poem of the Poetess, but he happened not to have them with him at that time, which I much regretted: he had however a short memoir of her, composed several years before, but which he said her relatives would not allow him to publish. This memoir he was kind enough to read to me, and allowed me to take some notes and dates; but that it was not published we need not very much deplore, as I find from my notes he had not even her Christian name correctly, having called her Louisa, and his facts and observations were but few and unimportant. He was in his dotage, poor old man, and whatever powers his mind might have originally possessed were entirely[Page xi] gone; he was still pleasing and amiable, and I congratulated myself with having met the author of "The Cumberland Ballads," even though in decay. He died at Carlisle, 26th September, 1833, aged sixty-three, where a monument is erected to his memory in the cathedral. After being put in possession of Miss Blamire's MSS. I found that Anderson had printed five, if not six, of her songs in the edition of his "Ballads" published at Wigton in 1808, with her name only attached to one of them; the sixth, entitled "Gobbleston Parish," bears such internal evidence of Miss Blamire's style, that I have not scrupled to insert it in this collection of her works. The way in which Anderson has delineated the manners and customs of his countrymen, shows him to have been a keen and an acute observer of human actions and feelings; and the style in which he has generally depicted these is that of a true poet. That he is less known, is solely owing to his having written in a provincial dialect; though it must be confessed that his compositions in English seldom reach mediocrity, — his Ballads however can never be forgotten.
In July 1833 I made another excursion to Carlisle, and my perseverance this time was crowned with considerable success. I had the good fortune to be introduced to the late Miss Thompson; and when that worthy lady learned the purpose of my visit, she instantly, and with the utmost frankness, allowed me to take away her common-place book, in which were fourteen pieces of Miss Blamire's, eleven of which I had never before seen. This seems to have been the little hoard, copies[Page xii] of which Anderson was in possession of; for in it were thirteen songs and one poem, only one short of the number he said he possessed.
Still pursuing my inquiries whenever and wherever there appeared to be a chance of obtaining any information, in 1835 I had the happiness of becoming acquainted with my excellent and talented friend Henry Lonsdale, Esq. M.D., Edinburgh, a native of Carlisle, who was then pursuing his medical studies at our University. Dr Lonsdale entered into my views with the ardour of an enthusiast; and it is to him that I am indebted for all my success. Having obtained his degree of Doctor in Medicine, he went to pursue his profession for a short time at Raughton-Head, near Thackwood, where he made the valuable acquaintance of Miss Jane Christian Blamire, niece of the Poetess, who showed him her aunt's MSS.; after which he was not long in informing me of the treasure he had found; and thus very agreeably confirmed an opinion I had long entertained, that one who had written so well must have written a great deal more than what had hitherto met my sight, or what was generally known to the world. Ultimately Dr Lonsdale obtained the consent of Miss Blamire and her excellent brother William Blamire, Esquire, of Thackwood, chief Tithe Commissioner, that the MSS. should be placed in our hands preparatively to publication; and my friend and myself feel much indebted to the various members of the Poetess's family at Thackwood, Carlisle, and Newcastle, for the facilities they have afforded us in the prosecution[Page xiii] of our labours. From a notice which appeared in the Carlisle Journal concerning the recovery of the MSS., and the intention of presenting them to the world, Miss Susanna Brown of Newcastle, niece of the Poetess, kindly and promptly gave us the use of her mother's papers, among which were many MSS. in the author's handwriting. It was delightful to see the affectionate manner in which they had been preserved and valued, many of them being indorsed, "My dear sister Susan's MSS.," "My dear sister's poetry." These have been of important service to us.
Our acknowledgments are also due to Mrs Lowthian of Kellington, and to Miss Graham of Carlisle, daughter of the late venerable Rector of Arthuret, for the very liberal way in which we have been favoured with the use of the MSS., and copies of Miss Blamire's writings in their possession, which have forwarded our labours in no inconsiderable degree.
It is with extreme regret that, notwithstanding all my diligence, I have been able to glean so few materials for illustrating the life and writings of Miss Susanna Blamire. All her kindred now living were children at the period of their accomplished relative's death, and therefore remember little of her; those still alive, resident near Thackwood and the Oaks, of an age contemporary with the Poetess, are, from circumstances and situation, but little fitted to appreciate her talents; and all concerning her with which their memories are stored is, that she was a fine, lively young lass. Had my good fortune but made me acquainted[Page xiv] with the late worthy Mrs Blamire of Thackwood, whose clear memory and vigorous understanding remained entire down to the date of her death, I should have been put in possession of much relative to her sister, which is now irretrievably lost. Mrs Brown of Newcastle could also have furnished me with much valuable information, and she too is gone; for, from the notes in her MSS., and transcriptions of her sister's poetry, I have been induced to think that she had at one time meditated their publication. Mrs Colonel Graham of Gartmore, to whom her sister Susan left by will the principal part of her effects, would also have been of great service to me; but she also is dead. The Misses Graham of Gartmore, to whom several of the poems are addressed (especially one, exceedingly interesting as descriptive of herself), I have been unfortunate enough not to reach, and know not if they are still alive. A few years more, and the little which has been gathered together would have perished; and the name of her whom every one loved and admired, whom every one delighted to see and associate with, would only have been known in connexion with her incomparable "Nabob" and "What ails this heart o' mine." EDINBURGH, 5 ARCHIBALD PLACE, May, 1842.
MEMOIR OF MISS SUSANNA BLAMIRE.
THE Life of Miss Blamire, I feel assured, would have formed an instructive and interesting portion of biography, had it been possible to procure its details with that fulness and accuracy which are indispensable to the purposes of truth, and those minuter lights and shades which enter into the composition of every human character. Much of this however will be supplied by her writings; for she wrote not for the world, but because it gave her pleasure, and to amuse a friend; and sometimes, it would appear, to give utterance to feelings that could not otherwise be controlled. The few compositions known to be hers, and some others now for the first time claimed in her name, have stood the test of public opinion for upwards of fifty years; have been taught us in our infancy; and have taken root in our memories like the holier scenes and attachments of our [Page xvi]juvenile days. They spoke to our young hearts in the language of truth and of nature, and aided in implanting better feelings there; and it cannot be wondered at that they gained our early regard, nor, that they now in maturer age, to use her own beautiful phraseology, "moan in our ears" like voices long since heard, and which can never be forgotten. Of a being so amiable, and with such powers, who would not be desirous of possessing the fullest information! yet I grieve to say that I have but a few scanty facts, obtained by Dr Lonsdale from the family, and collected by myself in various quarters, to gratify so laudable a curiosity. Miss Susanna Blamire was the youngest child, by his first marriage, of William Blamire, Esquire, of the Oaks, and Isabella Simpson, daughter of George Simpson, Esquire, of Thackwood, and Miss Richmond of High Head Castle, in the county of Cumberland. She was born at Cardew Hall, about two miles west of the Oaks, and six from Carlisle, between the hours of eleven and twelve in the morning of the 12th of January, 1747.
The Poetess's father was a fine specimen of the open-hearted English yeoman of his period, who lived on his estate, and freely enjoyed the hospitalities which a handsome independence placed within his reach. He died on the 7th of June, 1758, in the fifty-sixth year of [Page xvii]his age. By his first wife he had two sons and two daughters. William, his eldest son, was born on the 11th November, 1740, and died on the 29th January, 1814. He studied physic, and afterwards entered the Royal Navy as a surgeon; letters still in the possession of the family, bear ample evidence of the high regard in which he was held by men of naval eminence. Having remained in the service for a number of years, he at length retired, and took up his residence at the Oaks, where he cheerfully gave his valuable advice and assistance gratuitously to the poor, and to any who thought fit to consult him. It would be doing manifest injustice to his memory to withhold, that Lord Vernon travelled from London to Cumberland to avail himself of his professional abilities, so highly were they held. "A more temperate man," says Dr Lonsdale, "never lived; and as a father, few, if any, excelled Dr Blamire, as he was generally called, for kindness of heart and warmth of affection." In 1786 he married Miss Jane Christian of Ewanrigg Hall, by whom he had one son, the present William Blamire, Esquire, of Thackwood, chief Tithe Commissioner — who represented East Cumberland in the first Reformed Parliament — and three daughters. The second was named Richmond, the father of the Misses Blamire of Carlisle. The eldest daughter was called Sarah; she married Colonel Graham of Gart —[Page xviii] more. The youngest daughter was Susanna, the subject of this memoir.
At the tender age of seven our Poetess had the sad misfortune to lose her mother. Mrs Blamire was born in 1709, and died in June, 1754. Her health was never robust, and she might perhaps have imparted some of the infirmities of her constitution to her talented daughter, who early betrayed symptoms of delicate health. Be this as it may, her amiable manners, her charitable disposition, and the kind concern she ever manifested towards the poor, were largely inherited by her children; and every one who had the pleasure of her acquaintance long deplored so dear a friend, so kind a benefactress.
Some time afterwards, Mr Blamire married Miss Bridget Ritson, who bore him a daughter, christened Bridget, and who at a future period married a gentleman of the name of Brown, a lawyer in Newcastle-on-Tyne. Mrs Brown died in 1832, leaving a family.
In the vocabulary of any language there is no word which conveys so thrilling an emotion as that of mother. Few there are that can supply a mother's place; I had almost said none. Strangers think that by attention to our ordinary wants and wishes, food and clothing, that they have to do is done. Far otherwise is it with the fond parent. Her yearning thoughts, sleeping or [Page xix]awake, are ever with her offspring; all her care is for their health and happiness. In sickness or in sorrow, where can we pillow our head so softly as in a mother's arms? and when success in life wafts us along its smooth current, where arises so holy a joy as that in a mother's heart? Can there anywhere be found such a total negation of self, or that perpetual welling of affection, save in a mother's breast? In her angriest voice we discover no asperity; we even rush to those arms which threaten us with chastisement: and how delicious is her approbation! the proudest realizations of after-life afford no charm equal to the bland smile we perceive irradiating a mother's honest face. O! narrow must that heart be which has not a corner for the memory of a mother, however dear the ties he may have formed in future years. 1.1. A friend of mine, now no more, was once relating to his mother and myself the pleasure he felt whilst on a small island in the West Indies, where he and some of his brother officers were allowed to wander for a few hours, till the ship took in a supply of water. He expatiated on the rich luxuriance which met his eye — the teeming abundance of a tropical climate — the gorgeous plumage of the birds — the verdure which carpeted the earth — the cloudless serenity of the sky. He wandered on spellbound, till at length he arrived at a hut situate in the solitude, so peaceful and so calm, surrounded with trees in every variety of blossom, the air being actually laden with their perfume, all which so captivated his fancy, that he declared he could have spent his life there in happiness. I shall never forget his mother's reply; it was uttered calmly, but without premeditation: "Dear Willie, all this seems to have been very fine which you have told us, but believe me you will find no breeze to blow upon you with the softness of a mother's breath."[Page xx]
Miss Blamire however was singularly fortunate in finding one to watch over her infancy; for, after the death of her mother, she was removed to the care of her aunt Mrs Simpson, the wife of her mother's brother; whose maiden name was Stevenson, of Kettleside, Cumberland; a lady possessed of considerable property. She was born in 1702, and died in April, 1785; her husband had died in 1745. Having no family, she besought Mr Blamire, on his second marriage, to allow her to take the charge of his children — for there is ever a distrust of stepmothers — and they were accordingly removed from the Oaks to Thackwood. She was a woman of a very active mind, and, like many of those notable housewives — a bygone race — neither disdained, nor deemed it unbecoming her station in life, to take the entire management of her household. The excellent arrangement of her domestic affairs increased her means of usefulness, ample as her fortune was, for her economy was not parsimony; and she knew well that that prudence which prevents waste adds to our power of doing good. It is not unreasonable to conclude, that [Page xxi]it was from the exhibition of such activity and discipline her niece obtained the touching and forcible sentiment conveyed in the following verse:
The force of her character procured her respect from every one who knew her, and her warm-hearted benevolence secured it. Her charities were constant and liberal; and the following anecdote is related how she relieved the more important and urgent cases of distress which solicited her attention. She kept her ready money — chiefly gold — in a basin which stood on a table in her parlour; and whoever came to ask her assistance received an ample supply to relieve their wants, so long as the basin contained any of its precious store. Of course, we must suppose that this liberality was always exerted with due discrimination.
Under the eye of this vigilant and kind-hearted relative did Susanna, accompanied with her sister and her brothers, attend the village school of Raughton-Head, distant about a mile from Thackwood. Here boys and girls were taught reading, writing, and arithmetic; and if the amount of information obtained was small, it was obtained at as small a charge; for Dr Lonsdale was informed by one of her schoolfellows, that the quarter's wages did not exceed a shilling. There is every reason [Page xxii]to believe that this was the only school the Poetess attended; no such thing being known as boarding-schools in those days for the education of young ladies, at least in those parts. But after the difficulties of reading, writing, and arithmetic had been conquered — and she wrote a clear bold hand — she must have acquired at home a considerable relish for reading, as her aunt spent much of her leisure in the perusal of books; and although prevented from any thing like close application or systematic study, by the frivolity of youth and the extraordinary buoyancy of her spirits, yet a mind constituted like hers, apart from all regular training, would be constantly picking up knowledge from observation and reflection.
In 1767 Susanna's sister Sarah married Colonel Graham of Gartmore, who belonged to the 42d Regiment. She died in 1798, the Colonel in 1773; they had been married for only about six years, and had no family. Mrs Graham was a lady of elegant manners, and possessed of the most amiable dispositions; she is said to have been one of the handsomest women in Cumberland. The sisters had the most unbounded affection for each other. In her will, written with her own hand, which is dated 25th March, 1786, the Poetess, after giving instructions concerning her interment, makes the following touching appeal to her sister to moderate[Page xxiii] her grief, should she survive her: "Whenever this awful event shall take place, I humbly trust in the mercies of Almighty God, that I shall be received into everlasting happiness; and that my dear sister Græme will not suffer her grief to become excessive for the loss of one whose every hour she was the means of rendering easy, happy, and delightful."
Susanna, at the time of her sister's marriage, was in her twentieth year. She had a graceful form, somewhat above the middle size, and a countenance — though slightly marked with the smallpox — beaming with good nature; her dark eyes sparkled with animation, and won every heart at the first introduction. She was called by her affectionate countrymen "a bonny and varra lish young lass," which may be interpreted as meaning a beautiful and very lively young girl. Her affability and total freedom from affectation, put to flight that reserve which her presence was apt to create in the minds of her humbler associates; for they quickly perceived she really wished them happiness, and aided in promoting it by every effort in her power. She freely mingled in their social parties, called merry neets in Cumberland; and by her graceful figure, elegant dancing, and kind-hearted gayety, gave a zest to the entertainments, which without her presence would have been wanting. She has been described to me as enjoying [Page xxiv]herself greatly on these occasions; marking with a keen eye the various shades of character around her, and the whole proceedings with intense interest. Before the hilarity of the evening had melted the restraint usual at the commencement of such parties, I have been told she would relish the bashful approaches of the young villager as he, with much hesitation, made his homely bow, and begged she would honour him with her presence at the dance; that she would start up with hearty good-will, spring round the room, and thus dispel those timid fears which at first somewhat marred the free expression of delight, or the loud laugh of enjoyment. How much she was the cynosure of those parties, as will be afterwards shown she was equally so in those of a higher grade, may be gathered from the following anecdote, which was told me by the late Miss Thompson of Carlisle. A worthy farmer, who almost worshipped the Poetess, about two weeks after her death came to Miss Rowlands, a relation of Miss Binmire, for the sole purpose of having some conversation concerning Miss Sukey, as she was fondly and familiarly called by her neighbours and the people in the district, and for mutually bemoaning their loss. Miss Rowlands excused herself on the plea that the affliction was so recent, she could not summon fortitude sufficient to converse on the subject, and entreated him to call on [Page xxv]some future day. "Well, well," said the kind-hearted farmer, as he was taking his departure, "I could find neither rest nor comfort till I called on you to have some talk about her: the merry-neets will not now be worth going to since she is no more!" So vividly does the memory of worth and of genius dwell on our minds, and so fondly do we regard their most trivial actions.
From whatever source her passion for poetry arose it would now be vain to inquire; but we find that, so early as in 1766, when only in her nineteenth year, her stanzas "Written in a churchyard" betoken no inconsiderable familiarity with poetical numbers, and afford conclusive evidence that she must have been in the habit of composing poetry at some anterior date. Having been thus early "smit with the love of literature and sacred song," her sister's marriage with Colonel Graham, and their consequent residence at Gartmore, whither Susanna accompanied them, could not fail in having a material influence over her poetical pursuits. On whatever themes she had exercised her abilities before this period, we cannot now discover, as but few of her writings have any dates; yet from the few notes — I wish they had been more — appended to the transcript of her poetry by her sister Mrs Brown, we find that several of the subjects which she has woven into verse were obtained in Scotland. Great Britain being at that [Page xxvi]period engaged in active warfare, every village furnished its quota of soldiers and sailors, and every cottage could tell of some relative who had stood "i' the imminent deadly breach:" thus we find that "The Soldier's Return" was a real incident which happened in the Highlands; it is entitled in Mrs Brown's copy "The old Chelsea Pensioner's Return," but I have retained the title which the authoress herself has given it in a MS. written in her own hand. Then, in "Old Harry's Return," as Mrs Brown informs us, this was one Harry Macdowal, evidently a Scottish subject too: she also tells us that that exquisite ballad "The Nabob" was also founded on fact; and although it is not so stated, yet we cannot help thinking that, from the imagery and sentiment which pervade it, it must have been composed on some Scottish incident also. Among Mrs Brown's MSS. in the handwriting of her sister, I found a poem on the ruins of the Priory of Inch-mahome, situate on the largest of the islands in the Lake of Menteath, in Stirlingshire. There is considerable interest attached to this spot, as having been the residence of Mary Queen of Scots for about two years, when only four years of age, previously to her being sent to France. The poem, consisting of a good number of stanzas, is written upon an old letter, now much decayed; and is evidently a first draft, so interlined and defaced as to[Page xxvii] defy transcription, else I should have copied it and inserted it among her works; — perhaps there may yet be a fair and correct copy of it in existence.
Along with her sister and the Colonel Miss Blamire visited London, and was with them in Ireland. Miss Stubbs mentioned to me that she heard her relate, that when in the latter place, and sleeping in an old castle, in an apartment which had the reputation of being haunted, during the middle of the night her courage was put to a considerable trial. She was roused out of her sleep by feeling her bed evidently upheaved; and hearing heavy steps on the floor, she started from her couch, and ran to the head of the stair to awaken the family — there being no bells in the rooms in those days — when a large Newfoundland dog, that had been in the habit of taking up its abode here, rushed past her, and thus revealed the cause of her alarm. This betokened considerable courage in a being so young and so sensitive, whose ardent imagination was but too apt to people with a double portion of hobgoblins a domicile which was said to be their favourite rendezvous.
Whether the Mr Graham of Gartmore, author of the song entitled "O tell me how to woo thee," was the father of the Colonel, or how they stood related to each other, I have not been able to ascertain; but we may readily conclude that Miss Blamire was aware that [Page xxviii]it was written by some relative of the family; and we find that the Misses Graham fostered her love for poetry, from the circumstance of her having addressed them in rhyme, which she scarcely would have done had they not been admirers of verse. Whether her acquaintance with Scottish poetry commenced before her visit to Scotland, cannot now be ascertained; but we find she was well acquainted with the writings of Ramsay, by the direct allusion she makes in one of her songs to a passage in "The Gentle Shepherd:" if she had perused Ramsay and other Scottish writers before her visit to Gartmore, it is natural to suppose she would have her admiration of them increased by her residence in Scotland. We have a clear proof, however, that she was conversant, even at this period of her life, with the writings of Milton, Collins, Gray, and Prior, and doubtless with many others of the English classics; but it is curious to remark, we do not find one solitary allusion to the works of Burns, which she unquestionably would have relished much and appreciated highly. How far the Poetess's passion for literature was encouraged by Mrs Graham I have not discovered, but am disposed to think, from the love they bore each other, that she would indulge her in every thing that tended to promote her happiness and give her pleasure. From her aunt, and her brother the surgeon, she obtained no countenance; [Page xxix]her aunt, though an excellent being in every point of view, was too much a matter of fact woman to see any virtue in stringing verses together, and used to admonish her niece against the unprofitable occupation of writing poetry; and her brother, from having been brought up in the active duties of the royal navy, and leading even a laborious life by the benevolent exercise of his profession among the poor around him, could also see no enjoyment in the indulgence of the pleasures of imagination. Yet, had she met with any encouragement from her family to follow her favourite pursuit, we may readily conceive what a stimulus such would have given her mind, and how beneficially it would have operated upon it; so kind a heart and so lively a fancy could never be indifferent either to praise or blame; — she even has said with infantine simplicity,
Between her twentieth and thirtieth year, before her bodily infirmities pressed hard upon her, and somewhat damped the ardour of her spirits, I could fancy her to have been like one of those radiant beings whose joyousness of heart — whose amiable and innocent gayety — was more akin to heaven than to earth. Wherever she went she diffused joy and happiness around her; the [Page xxx]old loved her as their own, and the young joined to their admiration a feeling of a more tender sentiment. We have seen how much she was the delight of the humbler classes, how keenly and cordially she entered into the spirit of their social parties; but she was not the less beloved by those who moved in the world of fashion. When on a visit to her aunt Mrs Fell, whose husband was curate of Chillingham, the noble family of Tankerville was residing at Chillingham Castle, and Miss Blamire soon became acquainted with the Earl and his family. They quickly discovered her superiority of mind, and loved as much as they admired her; and, to please the Earl, who was much amused with the Cumberland dialect, she wrote at his request that clever dialogue commencing "Wey, Ned, man! thou luiks sae down-hearted." The lady Francis Isabella felt such a regard for her, that she petitioned aunt Simpson to allow Miss Susanna to remain constantly with them, declaring that they could not live without her; this the worthy aunt could not comprehend, for we find her writing to her brother the surgeon, "how unaccountable it was that the family should take such an interest in her," though admitting at the same time "that Susan was a fine girl."
Her aunt Mrs Simpson died in 1785, at the advanced age of eighty-three; and in 1786 her brother the surgeon[Page xxxi] married Miss Jane Christian, of Ewanrigg Hall, Cumberland, by whom he had one son, the present proprietor of Thackwood, and three daughters. Mrs Blamire of Thackwood was born 5th August, 1749, and died 15th March, 1837, at the venerable age of eighty-eight, having survived her husband twenty-three years. She was a well-educated lady, of varied accomplishments, and of the most engaging and amiable manners; even down to the day of her death she possessed a clear and vigorous understanding. The Poetess and she had been acquainted previously to her marriage with her brother, and the friendship then formed was strengthened by the union. This happy event, I am disposed to think, must have had the most favourable effect on the mind of Miss Blamire; for she must have felt the deficiencies of her own education, and consequently would quickly avail herself of the superior mental training of her sister, and, by her affection for her, become an apt scholar to all her instructions. That the one was as ready to receive as the other to impart advice, may readily be believed; and the strength of the attachment which Miss Susanna had for her sister-in-law may be gathered from the fact, that "the very accomplished woman" to whom "The Bower of Elegance" is addressed, was Mrs Blamire, after she had become the mother of her brother's children. In that [Page xxxii]beautiful poem the Poetess has done justice to her sister, and has drawn her character at page 63 under the semblance of the nymph Elegance, in a few felicitous touches, and farther on, has illustrated her varied accomplishments. The scene of the children mimicking the manners of their seniors is true to life; and our Poetess has not only given us a fine example of her powers of observation and force of delineation, but also of that sterling good sense — characteristic of all her compositions — which never lost sight of the moral of her song.
To her other accomplishments Miss Blamire added those of painting and music; her sketches display no inconsiderable excellence; and her proficiency in music is attested by the fact, that Dr Courrier — a foreigner at that time well known in the musical world of London — was so pleased with her performance, that he presented her with a psaltery. The guitar — still in the possession of the family at Thackwood — was her favourite instrument, and she usually carried it with her to the woods, and played the air while she was composing her songs. Her passion for dancing was so extreme, that if, when riding along the public road, she happened to meet with an itinerant musician, she would sometimes dismount from her pony, ask him to strike up a jig or a hornpipe, whilst she footed it away upon the grass. [Page xxxiii]Her brother the surgeon used to remark, that the most vivacious youths of his day were dull and phlegmatic in comparison with his lively sister.
At that period the wealthier families repaired to Carlisle during the winter months. Here her numerous and agreeable qualities of head and heart procured her a ready admittance into every family circle. Among the most distinguished of the acquaintance she here made was Miss Gilpin, sister to Sir Joseph Gilpin, a surgeon of the royal navy, who lately died at Bath. The Gilpins are descendants of Bernard Gilpin, the Apostle of the North, and formerly lived at Scaleby Castle. This lady survived Miss Blamire some years, but unfortunately I have not been able to procure the date of her death, or any particulars of her life. That she was of a congenial spirit, and of kindred pursuits, is manifest from her graphic picture entitled "The Village Club," printed in the appendix, and her co-operation with Miss Blamire in the composition of "The Cumberland Scold." That they were much together, and loved one another dearly, may readily be believed. They not only lived together under the same roof, Miss Gilpin occupying the parlour on the ground-floor, and Miss Blamire the room above, in the lodgings of the Misses Forester; (the house is still standing, and is No. 14 [Page xxxiv]Finkle Street, now tenanted by Mrs Cartmell;) but they also used to resort together to Gilsland Spa in the summer, for the benefit of their health. It was at this place that my worthy friend the late Mrs Russell of Knottyholm, Canobie, widow of Dr Russell, the historian already mentioned, met with Miss Blamire near the close of her life. She had then lost much of that vivacity which was so characteristic of her earlier years, but none of that amiability of which she was ever possessed; she was pensive, but not melancholy, and amused herself by playing on the flageolet, which Mrs Russell said she did exceedingly sweetly.
Even so early as her twenty-fourth or twenty-fifth year — if the two epistles to her friends at Gartmore were written about the same date — we find her playfully complaining of rheumatism, and exclaiming, "O girls! these aches play me sad tricks." And in her thirty-seventh year, in her elegant "Call to Hope," written after a long illness when not expecting to recover, she seems to have been afflicted with something like asthma; the whole of the paragraph commencing "Then dost thou fly me? — Goddess, stay!" cannot be read but with interest. From the frequent allusions to the state of her health to be [Page xxxv]found in her writings, we gather that her constitution was never robust; but her good sense would not allow her to complain and injure the feelings of her friends; she was always patient — always thankful for all their attention and care. Under that easy gayety with which she at all times mingled in society, was concealed a thoughtful mind, which glanced with no superficial gaze at whatever was going on around her. Drs Harrington and Blamire of Carlisle attended her in her last illness with the most affectionate solicitude. As her last hour drew nigh, she desired her friend Mrs Pearson, who was with her, to pray, for she felt a conviction she had not long to live; she complied with her request, and Susanna thanked her, adding she was happy, and felt that peace of God which passeth all understanding, only known in the Christian's faith. She then tasted a little wine, laid her head on the pillow, and expired within half an hour without a groan. Miss Blamire died in Carlisle at about four o'clock in the afternoon of Saturday, 5th April, 1794, in the forty-seventh year of her age; and was buried on the Wednesday following at Raughton-Head. The manner in which her memory was held is well exemplified by the fact, that between eighty and ninety people attended the funeral, the distance being seven miles, and that without any invitation. So poignant was the grief of Mrs[Page xxxvi] Graham, that she never afterwards could approach her sister's grave.
Miss Blamire's character may be gathered from her writings; her heart flowed with her pen; and the kindly expressions of her well-regulated mind and keen feelings are all undisguisedly exhibited to us as to a friend. She wrote not for the public, but because it gave her pleasure to embody her thoughts in verse; had it been otherwise, it is difficult to understand how one so talented could not but have found a ready publisher. If I am correct in supposing that her longest poem "Stoklewath" was composed in 1771, when about twenty-four years of age, at which time her sister Sarah was the wife of Colonel Graham, we find her young affections strongly breaking forth in the mention of her sister and her brother in the last paragraph but one of that poem, and giving a playful glance at her own character. Her love for her relations is again finely displayed in her poem of "The Invitation to two Sisters." There is a pun here introduced — seldom, and properly, attempted in serious poetry — yet so simply and kindly, that I cannot help taking notice of it. She has been describing the beauties of the landscape she invited them to witness, in all its gorgeousness of summer and autumnal clothing; yet, when the winter comes, if she have her friends around her, these would "yield a prospect[Page xxxvii] more charming than May." But without these friends, with all the advantages of "the wood-hanging bank, and the cottage so still," her regrets for the want of their conversation would always be renewed "As she listen'd and heard the soft clack of the mill."
In the last paragraph of her "Address to Health," she again exultingly breaks forth in the praise of her sisters; it is delightful to see this, for it proves to us how reciprocal was the attachment between them:
"On the dangerous illness of my friend Mrs L.," the elegant "Address to Miss Gale on her marriage," the "Elegy on the death of Mrs Dacre," all bespeak the ardour of her attachments. The epistles to her friends at Gartmore, too, afford a fine exhibition of her kindness of heart and playful disposition. The first of these I was so fortunate as to extract from an old MS. in Mrs[Page xxxviii] Brown's collection; it is quite biographical, and gives us a fine glimpse, freely and unreservedly, into her character. Of a being so amiable, whose beauty and accomplishments were acknowledged by all, it would have been more than surprising had her hand never been sought in marriage. It is however said that a scion of a noble house aspired to that honour; but, for reasons not very apparent, his family did not find it expedient to encourage the connexion, and hence it was broken off. That she would have reflected a dignity, not usually attendant on wealth and distinction, on any house however numerous its heraldic quarterings, all who have seen her mind, as revealed in her writings, will readily acknowledge. I am strongly disposed to believe that this story is true, and that the attachment on her part was so pure, so strong, that she never afterwards allowed the feeling to be supplanted. It is to this passage of her life, I think, that we owe many, if not all, of those exquisite delineations of the heart which are so frequently met with in her writings. It could not have been by any imaginary feeling of love that she was enabled to depict with such power and such truth her very touching "Adieu and recall to Love," "Farewell to Affection," and "Recall to Affection." It required no ordinary kindling of emotion to produce "What ails this heart o' mine," "The Siller Croun," "O there [Page xxxix]is not a sharper dart," and many passages of that highly imaginative poem "To the flower Love-in-Idleness," as well as of those sentiments of love and regret put into the mouth of the hermit in "Stoklewath." "The Letters of the Lovers" I am disposed to think are real, and that "Anna" and "The Mourner" were not imaginary beings, nor one and the same individual.
Miss Blamire's poetry is characterized by ease, a happy gayety, great earnestness, and often displays considerable imagination, rigour, and exuberance of thought. She was unquestionably the best female writer of her age; and had her works been published during her life, with the final corrections of their author, her name by this date would have attained an honourable position among the poets of our country. Late as they have been in being brought before the public, I have no fear for their fate, but anticipate her poems will be found in the collection of every reader of taste. Many of her songs, the greater part of which are now for the first time published, would have made the reputation of any writer of lyric poetry in her day; that however is a species of composition which has been much and successfully cultivated since her time.
In claiming in her name the authorship of "The Siller Croun," I candidly acknowledge I found it not among her manuscripts, but make the claim on the [Page xl]authority of her niece Miss Blamire of Thackwood, who perfectly remembers her mother having said that it was written by her aunt Susanna. It affords me infinite satisfaction to be thus enabled to point out the true author of this exquisite lyric, upon such unquestioned authority. My friend Dr Lonsdale had the kindness to inform me that the song was published in a collection entitled "The National Minstrel," printed in Glasgow or Greenock by the late Mr D. Weir, with Miss Blamire's name attached to it, but it was a very incorrect edition; this was the first time I had seen her name associated with it, and before I was prepared to address Mr Weir to inquire how he obtained the knowledge that she was the author of the song, I was told he was dead.
I have taken an unwarrantable liberty — but which I hope may be of use — in printing among her works that touching Scottish lyric "The Waefu 'Heart." Having long had a settled conviction in my mind, that the writer of "The Siller Croun" was also the writer of "The Waefu 'Heart;" and having ascertained beyond a doubt that the first-mentioned song was the production of Miss Blamire, I thought it would be useful to print the songs together, the, better to examine their styles, and to see how closely they resembled each other in sentiment and expression. I think it cannot [Page xli]fail to strike every one, that the second song is a continuation of the first; had the "Jamie" of the latter but been the "Donald" of the former, the likeness would have been perfect. The same impassioned feeling which resolves "Brave Donald's fate to share," is also very visible in that distraction which calls on heaven to
It is not less apparent that the "Heart, wi' a' its virtues rare," bears a very marked resemblance to
and various other coincidences may be traced between the two songs, to lead to the conclusion that they are the composition of the same author. Both these songs first appeared together in Johnston's "Scots Musical Museum," vol. iii. 1790, and, it may be worthy of remark, within a page or two of each other, indicating perhaps that the Editor had some suspicion that they were from the same pen. "The Siller Croun" was copied into the "Museum" from a single sheet copy, which, Mr Stenhouse tells us, was some time previously published by Napier, a well-known musician in Edinburgh; "The Waefu 'Heart" was taken from a single sheet copy also, which the same authority informs us was [Page xlii]published in London about the year 1788; — a strong corroboration that both are by the same author, independently of the internal evidence of their similarity of style. The lady-writers of that period — as confessed by Lady Anne Lindsay was the case with herself, in a letter to Sir Walter Scott about "Auld Robin Gray" — had a horror at seeing their names published as authors; even the Della Cruscans concealed their blushes under feigned names; and we cannot be surprised that Miss Blamire acted on the same principle. I know not one poem or song of hers, which was printed during her life, that has her name attached to it. I find her fine song "Though Bacchus may boast of his care-killing bowl" printed in the "Calliope, or the Musical Miscellany," London, 8vo, 1788, without her name; and in "The Edinburgh Magazine" for 1790, p. 216, is her beautiful little poem "The Adieu and Recall to Love" — there entitled "To Love" — also anonymous. Thus, if dates can enable us to come to any conclusion concerning the authorship of "The Waefu 'Heart," I have produced sufficient to show, that it is extremely probable it was written by Miss Blamire; and along with these dates, the remarkable resemblance in style and sentiment must inevitably lead us to the conviction, that the author of "The Siller Croun" was also the author of "The Waefu 'Heart:" I have proved that Miss Blamire was [Page xliii]the author of the first, and gone far to settle her claim to the latter.
It has been a grateful task for me to adduce the arguments in the above inquiry; but I have two points to bring forth which will oblige me to assume the appearance of an editor militant, but which I shall close in a very few words. The first is connected with the poem of "To-morrow." I was made aware by Dr Lonsdale that there was some doubt concerning this poem's being Miss Blamire's, and that the matter had been discussed in the "Gentleman's Magazine;" but, before I had looked into this controversy, the poem was printed, when another friend mentioned to me that it was claimed by the venerable author of "The World before the Flood," in his interesting selection "The Christian Poet," as the production of Mary Parken. I was not a little staggered at this; for Mr Montgomery is not the man to make an assertion without due deliberation, and I assuredly should have written to that gentleman, and inquired on what grounds he made the claim for his author, had the poem not been printed. But I refrained, because that I had found it among the transcripts of her sister's poetry by Mrs Brown, who, I had no doubt in my mind, was perfectly aware of its being her sister's before she inserted it among her writings; — that was one reason, for Mrs [Page xliv]Brown must have had her knowledge from personal facts, and her sister was too high-minded a lady to appropriate the labours of another: — on the same principle I have inserted "Auld Robin Forbes," which has been by some ascribed to Miss Gilpin. Another reason why I thought it, and still think it, Miss Blamire's is, in the version ascribed to Miss Parken (she is called Parker in the Gentleman's Magazine), the last stanza is wholly omitted, which, in my mind, is not a little conclusive of the matter; for we cannot well conceive a poet writing on the subject and omitting the very striking and obvious contrast of the Christian and the infidel. Moreover, in the poem printed in the text, there is much more closeness of composition, a clearer arrangement of thought, and a closer sequence of circumstances; which strongly induce me to conclude it is the production of Miss Blamire. The difficulty is also much lessened concerning who was the author, now that we have the writings of Miss Blamire before us; and I feel no hesitation in saying that the poem in question bears a very striking resemblance to the general spirit of her poetry; nay, that the frequent allusion to to-morrow in her works, showing how much it entered into the usual current of her thoughts, is of itself almost conclusive of the matter. The Rev. Mr Lowthian, Rector of Kellington, Yorkshire, first published the poem in the[Page xlv] "Gentleman's Magazine" for 1820, in which volume the authorship is disputed, on the authority of Dr Styles, who, in a biography which he had written of Miss Parken's brother, made mention of the poem as being hers. In the "Gentleman's Magazine" for December 1823, Mr Lowthian (I should have said, under the signature of Omicron in both instances) again adverted to the authorship of "To-morrow;" and, it would appear, had invited Dr Styles in a former communication to give up the sources of his information that the poem in question was Miss Parken's; but it seems that gentleman had not complied with the invitation. That it is Miss Blamire's I am firmly persuaded, and for the reasons already produced. Miss Stubbs had the kindness to favour me with a copy of the poem, which she extracted from her mother's commonplace-book, verbatim as that printed by the Rev. Mr Lowthian, with the exception of the last line in the last stanza, which ending in "to-morrow" ought to have been "to-day:" — the same mistake appears in Mrs Brown's copy. It is possible that Miss Parken might have seen the poem, and have taken a copy of it, as being soothing to her feelings, and suited to her infirm health; for Mr Montgomery informs us that she died young in 1811, and thus the mistake of her being the author of it might have originated.[Page xlvi]
The second dispute is with the song "O dinna think, my bonnie lass," at page 246. It so happens that Hector Macneill, the ingenious author of "Will and Jean," and of numerous and deservedly popular poems and songs, has one directly of the same title, the hint of which seems evidently to have been taken from this; there can be no mistake of the paternity. Mr Stenhouse informs us that Macneill said to him, the cause why he had not included this song in the uniform edition of his poetical works was, that "Mr John Hamilton, music-seller in Edinburgh, took the liberty to add to it (the last stanza), and to publish it as a sheet song." Now, I wish to impute no motive beyond what the amiable author in question has stated; but I cannot help thinking that there must have been some impression lurking in his memory, that he had heard some part of the song before he began to work it out on his own plan.
I have now finished my task; and having finished it, I cannot help wishing it had fallen into better hands: but this I must say for myself, that with me it has been a labour of love. The earnest object of my juvenile days was to collect the writings of a lady who had awakened my young mind to the beauties of poetry; and I cannot but rejoice that it has been my lot, in mature [Page xlvii]age, to be the humble instrument of giving them to the world. I now leave them to their fate, conscious that "The Muse of Cumberland" will be the favourite of many yet unborn; and shall conclude by saying to the rising generation, in the words of her own undying lyric —
SONGS IN THE CUMBERLAND DIALECT.
I HAVE inserted the three following pieces in this appendix, because two of them are involved in some doubt whether or not they belong to Miss Blamire; the third I record in this first collected edition of her works, as the production of her friend Miss Gilpin, which was sent by Miss Stubbs, to whom Dr Lonsdale and myself are indebted for several other obliging communications. I have not seen this excellent song by Miss Gilpin yet in print, and that is one reason why it is inserted here; but my chief motive is, to let these two talented ladies go forth to posterity together; for they were lovely in their lives, and in their deaths were not long divided. I have made many anxious inquiries concerning Miss Gilpin and her writings, for the purpose of a memoir, and of collecting her works; but hitherto my endeavours have been unavailing: yet I am not without hope that some one will afford me materials for a sketch of her life, and furnish me with a correct and genuine copy of her writings. It is evident that she must have indulged a good deal in literary composition; for the few things which are known to be[Page 256] hers exhibit no ordinary skill, and are stamped with the impress of unquestionable talent.
The first of the following pieces, which is here entitled "The Carrier Pigeon," I found many long years ago, — as mentioned in the Preface, — in the Mason's Magazine or Masonic Magazine, for I do not recollect the precise title, having unfortunately taken no note of it at the time: in such a work however I found it, with the name of Miss Blamire attached. In the London Monthly Magazine it was published as the production of Lady Anne Lindsay, in reply to the question, Who was the author of Auld Robin Gray? from which it was copied into the "Scots Magazine" for May 1805, p. 836. Future inquiry may, perhaps, solve the difficulty. A song on the same subject is to be found in "The Vocal Magazine," vol. iii. song 2; Edinburgh, 1799, 3 vols. 8vo. That song, in which the writer supposes the pigeon to return with Colin's reply to his mistress, we may regard as a continuation of the present.
Dr Lonsdale received "The Sailor Lad's Return" from Carlisle, where it is generally thought to be Miss Blamire's; but in "Dialogues, Poems, Songs, &c. in the Westmoreland and Cumberland dialects," London, 1839, 8vo, p. 310, it is printed in the Cumberland dialect, and there said to be the production of Miss Gilpin. The edition here given is in the Scottish language, and that is the reason why I have some suspicion it was written by Miss Blamire, because she evidently preferred that to the Cumbrian: moreover,[Page 257] we should be almost tempted to conclude, that the allusion to the OAK, which sheltered the infancy of the writer, was in compliment to the magnificent monarch of the forest that adorns the patrimonial inheritance of her father, and from which it derives its name. I am perfectly aware, that it is no difficult matter for any one possessing a competent acquaintance with the Scottish and Cumbrian dialects, to translate the one into the other; but the idiom and whole structure of the song induce me strongly to suspect that it originally appeared in its present Doric dress.