misssylviadrake (misssylviadrake) wrote,

Foremother Poet: our old friend Anonymous aka "By a Lady"

Dear friends,

Tonight I begin again to make blogs on behalf of women poets as I did for Wompo for about two and a half years, some of which I transferred onto Jim and Ellen have a blog, two, to which I added 19 more.  My last blog on the old one was a third attempt to list and organize what I had again gathered.  It's felicitious for my first Reverie on foremother poets under the Sign of Austen be a thread an 18th century woman poet.

Muse of Compostion. Angelica Kaufmann (1741-1807)

One particularly prolific name I had not entered was that of Anonymous who in the eighteenth century tended to use the designation "By a Lady."   A lady of letters at first blush, then as we looked a woman of music too. It's very much of its era (first half of the 18th century) in outlook and prosody, and it's filled to the brim with contemporary references (to opera singers, the garter, popular places to go out). 

Vauxhall Gardens. Thomas Rowlandson, 1784

The text and notes come from British Women Poets, 1600-1800, An Anthology, ed, Joyce Fullard):

A Farewell to London on setting out for Wales
By a Lady Written several Years ago.

Must I who ne'er cou'd long sit still,
Five days confin'd against my will,
Be sweated, shak'd, compell'd to see
But just one sort of company?
In stage coach squeez'd like fig in barrel,
    Twist up my hoop, spoil my apparel?
And this, O! break not yet my heart,
All this, from London to depart?
Which scarce with patience I could do
    Tho' six my gilded chariot drew;
Yet, to return (be dumb reproach)
I'd take a waggon for my coach.
From Middlesex to middle air,
Where coach was never seen, or chair,
O'er barren hills, to high dry'd land,
I'm banish'd, to be mop'd, and tann'd;
O'er Penmanmaw compell'd to ride,
And ridges scarce nine inches wide;
Thence, precipices to behold
    Enough to make one's blood run cold;
In thought the prospect turns my head,
And ev'n my fancy starts with dread.
Here four long months O! plague on plague!
I shall have nothing but comraeg;
In form then let me bid adieu,
O! London, to your joys, and you;
 And better still to suit my theme of woe,
More solemn be the lengthen'd lines, and slow.
But where, amidst this varied, endless scene,
    Where, shall my soft lamenting strains begin?
Farewell, ye theatres, where oft I wept
And laugh'd, and order'd places to be kept;
O! pit of Drury Lane! farewell to thee,
Where oft I've been incog, to hear, and see;
Farewell, ye boxes too of Lincoln's Inn,
Where I but came to talk, and to be seen;
Farewell, Italian house of harmony.
Where ladies are entranc'd, or seem to be;
Where lords, who pay no debts, their gold dispense
To hear Cuzzoni's warbles murder sense,
And lib'ral whores, and coxcombs, pant and whine-a,
And tremble at each shake of dear Faustina;
Farewell! ye metamorphoses farewell! "
Licens'd, with foreign joys to charm the belle;
Where fancy subjects dare their king abuse
With biting satire, and unwelcome news,
For all are subjects, all are fellows there,
So will the sov'reign mighty Heidegger;
Where some from conventicles stole away,
Their faces hide, their bosoms to display,
Who, but in that academy of sin,
Will hardly show an inch beneath their chin;
These midnight haunts without regret I quit.
So full of lewdness, and so bare of wit.

Farewell ye various philosophic shows,
Which nature's secrets to the fair disclose;
Where truth, beheld with well-instructed eyes,
In naked beauty strikes with sweet surprize;
Where, by experiment we learn to know
 On men what force mechanic pow'rs bestow;
What weights stupendous by attraction move,
 Taught thence to use the mighty magnet love:
When light, refracted by the prism, supplies
Of heav'n's own bow the variegated dies,
To chuse the painted silk from thence is known,
 Which best adorns the fair, the black, the brown.
 But, to speak freely, I reget the most
Big sounding terms of art, which I have lost.
Had I but these to distant Wales convey'd,
Her mite to vanity e'en Wales had paid;
With conscious pride I might have flourish'd there,
    Pleas'd, while the male and female bumpkins stare.

But how shall my full heart pronounce farewell
To the dear plasures of the park and mall?
Yet since I must depart, must bid adieu,
My mind at least shall ev'ry bliss renew;
O! melting softness of the bird-cage walk!
 By zephyrs fann'd and fam'd for am'rous talk!
My praises next those silent waters claim
With honour known by Rosamonda's name,
On whose green banks unnumber'd vows are made,
Unnumber'd maids by faithless vows betray'd;
E'en sparks themselves sometimes have been deceiv'd
For ev'ry fair is not to be believ'd:
Else in this lake had not so oft been found
The breathless corpse of desp'rate lover drown'd.
But from such objects let me turn my view,
Ye gay frequenters of the mall to you,
By ev'ry art adorn'd, with ev'ry grace,
    To scatter darts and flames around the place;
But lost, bewilder'd in the various throng.
How shall I fix my view, or guide my song!
Here swiftly move toupees, in spruce undress,
Here queues, with all the dancing school's excess;
Here country squires look big in scarlet drest,
And as they pass, let off a smutty jest.
The lawyer more reserv'd, at least in show,
 But full as lewd, submissive, congees low.
And loth to treat a lady like a wench,
    What others speak in English, speaks in French.
But see, the garter'd knights from court appear.
Nor glitter lesser beaus, when these are near.
How great, ye gods! a conquest over these!
What more a woman's vanity could please?
Yet, if a ribbon'd lover I might chuse,
Not of the greens, that lover, nor the blues.
The greens are chiefly of the northern race,
And wear their meagre country in their face;
The blues, too much employ'd in statesmen's arts,
    Are grown regardless of the ladies hearts;
But Robin's boys, in red, are always gay,
And moving things so prettily can say
' Tis not in woman to resist, addrest
By these, tho' walls of ice surround her breast.
When e'er I yield up all my maiden charms,
Let such a knight enclose me in his arms!
Where strays my fancy—without leave of me?
Shou'd virgins think such things? —but thoughts are free
Howe'er, temptation from this hour to shun,
    To caves and mountains I'll like hermits run,
And to be free from your remarks and you.
Ye prudes, tho' loth, I'll bid the park adieu.

(c. 1728)

Pleasures of Dance.   Jean-Antoine Watteau  (1684-1721)

We had some fun with this on ECW.  I placed it there without annotations, and it had a few typos caused by my scanner; I was queried by people on the list about references in the poem, and sent some substitute good texts for the corrupt one my machine had made.  Together three of us (Richard, Nick and I) decided that far from a simply nostalgic or sentimental poem, there is political satire here, and the lady (whoever she was) really didn't want to return to Wales, though she laughed at herself for her vanity and pride at being among the "in" people using popular London slang.

These are pleasing lines:

But, to speak freely, I regret the most
Big sounding terms of art, which I have lost.
Had I but these to distant Wales convey'd,
Her mite to vanity e'en Wales had paid;
With conscious pride I might have flourish'd there,
Pleas'd, while the male and female bumpkins stare.

Here are the notes:

It was published in The Gentleman's Magazine of November 1747, and the poem appears to have been written before 1735.     .",

33-36. 37.
Middlesex.     An English county north of London, now mostly within the metropolitan area.
PenmJlnmJlw.     Penmaenmawr, a 1,550 ft. mountain near the north coast of Caernarvonshire, North Wales.
Drury Lane and Lincoln's Inn were popular London theatres.
Italian house of harmony.  Haymarket Theatre, used as an opera house under control of the Royal Academy of Music.
Cuzzoni.     Francesca Cuzzoni (1700-1770) who sang in London between 1723-1728 and 1734-1735.

94. 98. 105.
Faustitul.     Faustina Bordoni (1700-1781) was a rival of Cuzzoni; she also sang in London between 1726-1728. metamorphoses. Various entertainments called The Meta­morphoses were presented in London theatres from 1724, most of them pantomimes derived from the Italian Com media dell' arle. mighty Heidegger. John James Heidegger (1659?-1749) man­aged the opera house in partnership with Handel from 1728 to 1734 and for a short time during 1737.
philosophic shows.     Scientific demonstrations.
bird-cage walk.     A walk in St. James's Park named for an aviary established near it by Charles II.
Rosamond's Pond, in St. James's Park near Buckingham Gate, was a meeting place for lovers. It was filled in before the end of the century.
queues.     Wigs made with a pigtail hanging down the back.
congees.     Bows.
a ribbon'd lover. One wearing the ribbons of an order of the peerage, as described in the following lines. Blue signified the old established Order of the Garter; green, the Order of the Thistle, established by James II in 1687; and red, the Order of the Bath, instituted by George I in 1725.

To which we added:  comraeg means the Welsh.  And Rosamonda's lake, in St. James Park, a lovers' rendez-vous, is mentioned in the {ope's Rape of the Lock.

Nick parsed this:

Yet, if a ribbon'd lover I might chuse,
Not of the greens, that lover, nor the blues.
The greens are chiefly of the northern race,
And wear their meagre country in their face;
The blues, too much employ'd in statesmen's arts,
Are grown regardless of the ladies hearts;
But Robin's boys, in red, are always gay,
And moving things so prettily can say -

Well the greens - the Thistle was a Scottish order so that bit - 'northern race' - is clear.

The blues - the Garter would all have been very senior aristocrats - the number was limited to 24 -
and so presumably 'much employ'd in statesmen's arts'

But the strange one is the reds. The Order of the Bath was only created in as you say in 1725 and it was done - to quote wikipedia -
'The attraction of the new Order for Walpole was that it would provide a source of such favours to strengthen his political position.'
So is Robin here a fond diminutive for Robert Walpole? Not a figure I associate with fond diminutives!
The initial composition of the Order was...

 a.. Members of the House of Commons: 14
 b.. The Royal Household or sinecures: 11
 c.. Diplomats: 4
 d.. The Walpole family, including the Prime Minister: 3
 e.. Naval and Army Officers: 3
 f.. Irish Peers: 2
 g.. Country gentlemen with Court Appointments: 2

Very significantly less aristocratic than the Garter or Thistle. I think it is enjoyably significant that the MP's rather than employing 'statesmen's arts' were spending their time in leisure pursuits! But Walpole was probably happy enough about that if he had bought their votes.

Then I got a letter from a friend on C18-l for whom the poem was part of a research topic.  She wrote:

"Dear Ellen,

     Thank you very much for the notes from British Women Poets.... I was going to look for a copy in the college library on my next trip to campus, but your very kind scan is infinitely helpful.

      The poem seems to be intended not so much as a tender farewell to London and its environs but, rather, as an opportunity for the poetess to demonstrate her extensive familiarity with the city and its attractions. Handel, his Italian opera company at Haymarket, and his contentious divas Cuzzoni and Faustina  (with the castrato Senesino), and the political partisanship they inspired were  topics of intense public interest and conversation during the period (?c1728) that the poem was composed, so it's very curious that the poetess mentions not Handel, or his aristocratic partisans, but Heidegger, who was a minor figure in Handel's company and the very operatic personal disputes on the Haymarket stage. You may find the following account of interest. It's an excerpt from the abstract to a paper I gave last year on the squabbling sopranos (in the Women's Studies faculty forum at the college).

     Divas, Superstars, and Musical Marketing: The Convoluted Path to Fame, Success, and Audience Acclaim on the 18th-century Operatic Stage.

Mrs Abingdon as Roxolana in The Sultan.  Joshua Reynolds (1723-92). 

     The principal subjects are two very well-known sopranos, active primarily in the first half of the century: Faustina Bordone (later Hasse) and Francesca Cuzzoni. Handel imported them to sing in his London opera theatre in the late 1720s, only to find that the two women were quickly espoused by opposing political camps and became icons for the rival London political factions. The already rancorous musical competition between the two women was exacerbated by the political overlay, and on one infamous night in 1727 erupted into a hair-pulling, scratching cat fight on stage! Handel's efforts to compose equitably for the two women were not successful and after one more disastrous season he gave up writing opera altogether and turned his attention to oratorios. Cuzzoni's and Faustina's rivalry was lampooned in the popular press, especially by John Gay, in The Beggar's Opera which came out shortly after the infamous squabble.

     There are several questions raised by the women's rivalry, not the least of which is the degree to which the squabbles on the London stage were contrived, a very successful form of politicized marketing that exploited musical competition for political purposes. Although the women's command of English was poor, they surely understood the political sub-texts in the musical dramas selected for them, and welcomed the opportunity to demonstrate their considerable talents. To the British, the musical partisanship was an excuse for yet another skirmish in the political manoeuvring between the Whig and Tory camps. In the very fickle world of musical fame and fortune, the interminable squabbling was good publicity. The immensely popular satiric theatre inspired by their wrangling was an effective way to compete with the castrati for public favour and served to prolong Cuzzoni's and Faustina's iconic presence on the London stage.

    Were Cuzzoni's and Faustina's personae created in response to the intense publicity they received and the political sub-structure of their stage presence? The evidence in Britain, at least, suggests this was the case. On the continent, the women's musical rivalry was quite subdued, unequivocally over-shadowed by the castrati  who ruled uncontested in the Italian and Austrian theatres. The stage fight between Cuzzoni and Faustina however, has lived on in musical lore, and has acquired a dramatic and musical significance far beyond its original  circumstances. 


Posted by Ellen

Musical Instruments. Jean-Baptiste Chardin (1699-1779)

Tags: women's poetry

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