16 November - Frances Thynne Seymour (1699-1754) Jul 14, 2008 22:00:17 GMT 2
Post by moira on Jul 14, 2008 22:00:17 GMT 2
Frances Seymour Thynne, Lady Hertford (1699-1754)
A woman poet I personally like (from what I've read of and by her, and that's a lot):
A friendship-retirement poem:
To the Countess of Pomfret
(they were faithful correspondents for years):
We sometimes ride, and sometimes walk,
We play at chess, or laugh, or talk;
Sometimes besides the crystal stream,
We meditate some serious theme;
Or in the grot, beside the spring,
We hear the feathered warblers sing.
Shakespeare perhaps an hour diverts,
Or Scott directs to mend our hearts.
With Clarke's God's attributes we explore;
And, taught by him, admire them more.
Gay's Pastorals sometimes delight us,
Or Tasso's grisly spectres fright us:
Sometimes we trace Armida's bowers,
And view Rinaldo chained with flowers.
Often from thoughts sublime as these,
I sink at once and make a cheese;
Or see my various poultry fed,
And treat my swans with scraps of bread.
Sometimes upon the smooth canal
We row the boat or spread the sail;
Till the bright enveing-star is seen,
And dewy spangles deck the green.
Then tolls the bell, and all unite
In prayer that God would bless the night.
From this (though I confess the change
From prayer to cards is somewhat strange)
To cards we go, till ten has struck:
And then, however bad our luck,
Our stomachs ne'er refuse to eat
Eggs, cream, fresh butter, or calves'-feet;
And cooling fruits, or savoury greens
'Sparagus, peas, or kidney-beans.
Our supper past, an hour we sit,
And tlk of history, Spain or wit.
But Scandal far is banished hence,
Nor dares intrude with false pretence
Of pitying looks, or holy rage
Against the vices of the age:
We know we were all born to sin,
And find enough to blame within.
* * *
A justly famous frequently reprinted anti-slavery proto-feminist poem
The Story of Inkle and Yarico
A most moving Tale from the Spectator [No. II]
A YOUTH there was possessed of every charm,
Which might the coldest heart with passion warm;
His blooming cheeks with ruddy beauty glowed,
His hair in waving ringlets graceful flowed;
Through all his person an attractive mien,
Just symmetry, and elegance were seen:
But niggard Fortune had her aid withheld,
And poverty th' unhappy boy compelled
To distant climes to sail in search of gain,
Which might in ease his latter days maintain.
By chance, or rather the decree of Heaven,
The vessel on a barbarous coast was driven;
He, with a few unhappy striplings more,
Ventured too far upon the fatal shore:
The cruel natives thirsted for their blood,
And issued furious from a neighbouring wood.
His friends all fell by brutal rage o'erpowered,
Their flesh the horrid cannibals devoured;
Whilst he alone escaped by speedy flight,
And in a thicket lay concealed from sight!
Now he reflects on his companions' fate,
His threatening danger, and abandoned state.
Whilst thus in fruitless grief he spent the day,
A negro virgin chanced to pass that way;
He viewed her naked beauties with surprise,
Her well-proportioned limbs and sprightly eyes!
With his complexion and gay dress amazed,
The artless nymph upon the stranger gazed;
Charmed with his features and alluring grace,
His flowing locks and his enlivened face.
His safety now became her tend'rest care,
A vaulted rock she knew and hid him there;
The choicest fruits the isle produced she sought,
And kindly to allay his hunger brought;
And when his thirst required, in search of drink,
She led him to a chrystal fountain's brink.
Mutually charmed, by various arts they strove
To inform each other of their mutual love;
A language soon they formed, which might express
Their pleasing care and growing tenderness.
With tigers' speckled skins she decked his bed,
O'er which the gayest plumes of birds were spread;
And every morning, with the nicest care,
Adorned her well-turned neck and shining hair,
With all the glittering shells and painted flowers
That serve to deck the Indian virgins' bowers.
And when the sun descended in the sky,
And lengthening shades foretold the evening nigh,
Beneath some spreading palm's delightful shade,
Together sat the youth and lovely maid;
Or where some bubbling river gently crept,
She in her arms secured him while he slept.
When the bright moon in midnight pomp was seen,
And starlight glittered o'er the dewy green,
In some close arbour, or some fragrant grove,
He whispered vows of everlasting love.
Then, as upon the verdant turf he lay,
He oft would to th' attentive virgin say:
'Oh, could I but, my Yarico, with thee
Once more my dear, my native country see!
In softest silks thy limbs should be arrayed,
Like that of which the clothes I wear are made;
What different ways my grateful soul would find
To indulge thy person and divert thy mind!';
While she on the enticing accents hung
That smoothly fell from his persuasive tongue.
One evening, from a rock's impending side,
An European vessel she descried,
And made them signs to touch upon the shore,
Then to her lover the glad tidings bore;
Who with his mistress to the ship descends,
And found the crew were countrymen and friends.
Reflecting now upon the time he passed,
Deep melancholy all his thoughts o'ercast:
'Was it for this,' said he, 'I crossed the main,
Only a doting virgin's heart to gain?
I needed not for such a prize to roam,
There are a thousand doting maids at home.'
While thus his disappointed mind was tossed,
The ship arrived on the Barbadian coast;
Immediately the planters from the town,
Who trade for goods and negro slaves, came down;
And now his mind, by sordid interest swayed,
Resolved to sell his faithful Indian maid.
Soon at his feet for mercy she implored,
And thus in moving strains her fate deplored:
'0 whither can I turn to seek redress,
When thou'rt the cruel cause of my distress?
If the remembrance of our former love,
And all thy plighted vows, want force to move;
Yet, for the helpless infant's sake I bear,
Listen with pity to my just despair.
Oh let me not in slavery remain,
Doomed all my life to drag a servile chain!
It cannot surely be! thy generous breast
An act so vile, so sordid must detest:
But, if thou hate me, rather let me meet
A gentler fate, and stab me at thy feet;
Then will I bless thee with my dying breath,
And sink contented in the shades of death.'
Not all she said could his compassion move,
Forgetful of his vows and promised love;
The weeping damsel from his knees he spurned,
And with her price pleased to the ship returned.
I like Frances Seymour Thynne, better know as "Lady Hertford" and (to the many poets and painters she supported), "the gentle Hertford." I've read her letters and a life of her by Helen Sard Hughes (a touching, old-fashioned old book) because she was the niece by marriage of Anne Kingsmill Finch, Countess of Winchilea (1661-1720). Frances Thynne (to use the modern way of naming) encouraged Anne Finch to write and we have a few more fine poems by Finch because of this encouragement. Thynne had a number of genuinely close friends, including Henrietta St John Knight (later Lady Luxborough), Henrietta Louisa Jeffreys Fermor (I mentioned all her names so we won't get her confused with someone else), Lady Pomfret. There are three volumes of letters between Lady Hertford and Lady Pomfret.
Francis Thynne grew up at Longleat and was married to Algernon Seymour, styled Earl of Hertford. Seymour was a book lover and music lover and would spend time with his uncle (Anne Finch's husband) finding old books and doing early archealogy with William Stuckeley (who Finch's husband, Heneage Finch, Earl of Winchilsea, supported). They had playful Druid names, but Stuckeley's work is now increasingly respected and may be read about in Jennifer Wallace's Digging the Dirt. You'll find a reference to Heneage Finch (who climbed with Stuckeley though Finch was something like 14 or 15 stone), though none to Seymour. What I remember best about Francis is she didn't send her young son away to one of these godawful schools but brought him up herself, and he turned out to be a good man.
Thynne published other poems, and wrote more. Her verse is also in the Thomson-romantic style. The most famous is the above narrative which post-colonial, feminist and psychoanalytic perspectives
enrichen: "The Story of Inkel and Yarico." Much better are her familiar poems in colloquial style, which circulated (as much still did) in manuscript.
I've been writing about retirement and friendship poetry by women on my blog and the essay is relevant: Women's Counter-Universes:
In Margaret Ezell's Writing Women's Literary History Ezell says the insistence that a piece of writing be published in print and have made money (been written to make money) as a basic standard criteria for inclusion in today's canon of women's past is falsifying and crippling. If we look we find early modern men's writing is not subjected to the same standard.
See Helen Sard Hughes, The Gentle Hertford: Her Life and Letters. NY: Macmillan, 1940. (A Wellesley College publication).
From a member of Wompo
Thank you for sending this! After reading the blog, I did very much
want to know more about her. I've posted a reply.
The poem made me smile and laugh, and deeply sympathize with the life
and friendship shared. I love the unassuming, unpretentious voice,
the amusement of her own - and the virtue it mixes with, in the
choice of pleasure and eschewing of gossip and judgment, the
wisdom. The wonderfully varied reading she detailed was a
delight. As I said as Lady Mary: were she alive today, I should
gladly desire to be a friend of Frances Thynne.
Thank you for the introduction.
Dear Julie and all,
Helen Sard Hughes gives a sense of the woman's personality I've never
forgotten. And Francis Thynne was very kind to Anne Finch, one of
the great poets of the century, who needed kindness. I probably
shouldn't send the recent ODNB life which of course gives us the
"facts." The biographer professes to be puzzled over why her
husband's parents hated her. They were intensely into ambition,
prestige, and wanted much more money that she brought. They resented
very much that she would not send her son to a public school. Like
the Heneage and Anne Finch match, the Seymour match was a love
one. Johnson's remark is also the usual anti-feminism about
salonieres. In away Francis Thynne has a salon -- or at least a
circle of people.