Lichfield Cathedral is situated in Lichfield, Staffordshire, England. It is the only medieval English cathedral with three spires. The Diocese of Lichfield covers all of Staffordshire, much of Shropshire and part of the Black Country and West Midlands. The present bishop is the Right Reverend Jonathan Gledhill, the 98th Lord Bishop of Lichfield.
Anna Seward (12 December 1742 – 25 March 1809) was a long eighteenth century English Romantic poet, often called the Swan of Lichfield. Seward was the eldest of two surviving daughters of Thomas Seward (1708–1790), prebendary of Lichfield and Salisbury, and author, and his wife Elizabeth.
In 1749 her father was appointed to a position as Canon-Residentiary at Lichfield Cathedral and the family moved to that city, where her father educated her entirely at home. They lived in the Bishop's Palace in the Cathedral Close. When a family friend, Mrs. Edward Sneyd, died in 1756, the Sewards took in one of her daughters, Honora Sneyd, who became an 'adopted' foster sister to Anna. Honora was nine years younger than Anna. Anna Seward describes how she and her sister first met Honora, on returning from a walk, in her poem The Anniversary (1769). Sarah (known as 'Sally') died suddenly at the age of nineteen of typhus (1764). Sarah was said to be of admirable character, but less talented than her sister. Anna consoled herself with her affection for Honora Sneyd, as she describes in Visions, written a few days after her sister's death. In the poem she expresses the hope that Honora ('this transplanted flower') will replace her sister (whom she refers to as 'Alinda') in her and her parents affections. She was devastated and outraged by Honora’s marriage to Richard Lowell Edgeworth in 1773 and literally went into mourning. Even after Honora’s death in 1780, Honora remained an important figure in Seward’s interior life.
Anna Seward continued to live at the Bishop's Palace all her life, caring for her father during the last ten years of his life, after he had suffered a stroke. When he died in 1790, he left her financially independent with an income of ₤400 per annum. She spent the rest of her life at the Palace, till her death in 1809.
There is a plaque to Anna Seward (spelled “Anne”, which is the spelling she used in her will) in Lichfield Cathedral. “Anne Seward died March 25th, 1809, aged 66. By her order this monument is erected: To the memory of her Father, the Rev. Thomas Seward, M.A. Canon Residentiary of this Cathedral, who died March 4th, 1790, aged 81: of her Mother, Elizabeth, his wife, daughter of the Rev. John Hunter, who died July 31st, 1780, aged 66: and of her sister, Sarah, their younger daughter, who died June 13th, 1763, aged 20.
(on a lower marble plaque, from a poem written for the occasion by Sir Walter Scott, Anna Seward’s friend and literary executor)
Amid these aisles, where once his precepts shew’d
The heavenward pathway, which in life he trod,
This simple tablet marks a Father’s bier,
And those he lov’d in life, in death are near;
For him, for them, a Daughter bade it rise,
Memorial of domestic Charities,
Still would you know – why o’er the marble spread,
In female grace the willow drops her head?
Why on her branches, silent and unstrung,
The minstrel harp is emblematic hung?
What Poet’s voice lies smother’d here in dust,
Till wak’d to join the chorus of the just?
Lo! One brief line an answer sad supplies,
Honour’d, belov’d, and mourn’d, here Seward lies;
Her worth, her warmth of heart, our sorrows say,
Go seek her Genius in her living lay.”
A full-length figure of a bare-brested woman draped in classical robes sits upon a low stool, carrying a scroll in her right hand and with her head in her left hand in a gesture of grief and despair. Her left elbow rests on the coffin containing the body of the deceased person for whom she is grieving. Behind her is a willow tree, often associated with weeping and sorrow, and from it hangs a harp, the traditional attribute of a poet.
The monument originally stood in the aisle of the north transept, but was moved to its present position during Sir Gilbert Scott’s 19th century restoration of the cathedral.
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