Born: December 12, 1742, Eyam, United Kingdom
Died: March 25, 1809, Lichfield, United Kingdom
Lived: Bishop’s Palace, 19A The Close, Lichfield, Staffordshire WS13 7LD, UK (52.68548, -1.83032)
Buried: Lichfield Cathedral, Lichfield, Lichfield District, Staffordshire, England, Plot: choir
Find A Grave Memorial# 29322674
Parents: Thomas Seward
Home town: Lichfield
Dubbed the "Swan of Lichfield," Anna Seward was eldest daughter of Thomas Seward, canon residentiary of Lichfield Cathedral. Encouraged to write by Erasmus Darwin, Seward became one of the best-known English women poets of her time. Widely connected to writers and clergy, Seward lived her entire life at Lichfield and never married. Biographers have noted Seward's passion for her foster sister Honora Sneyd. Seward expressed her passionate devotion through her involvement in Honora's romantic life as well as in poetry dedicated to her. She was devastated and outraged by Honora's marriage to Richard Lovell Edgeworth in 1773 and literally went into mourning. Even after her death in 1780, Honora remained an important figure in Seward's interior life. There is a plaque to Anna Seward (spelled "Anne", which is the spelling she used in her will) in Lichfield Cathedral. “In an era when women had to tread carefully in society's orbit, Seward struck a middle ground.”s
They met in 1760 and remained friends until Sneyd’s marriage in 1773: 13 years.
Anna Seward (December 12, 1747 – March 25, 1809)
Honora Sneyd (1753-1780)
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time
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Church: Lichfield Cathedral is situated in Lichfield, Staffordshire. It is the only medieval English cathedral with three spires.
Address: 19A The Close, Lichfield, Staffordshire WS13 7LD, UK (52.68548, -1.83032)
Hours: Monday through Saturday 8.30-18.15, Sunday 7.30-18.30
Phone: +44 1543 306100
English Heritage Building ID: 382775 (Grade II, 1952)
Anna Seward lived 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. 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. 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 XIX century restoration of the cathedral.
Who: Anna Seward (December 12, 1742 – March 25, 1809)
Anna Seward was a XVIII 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 (1751-1780), 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. Honora Sneyd Edgeworth (1751-1780) is buried at St Andrew (by the lake, near Weston Hall, Weston-under-Lizard, Staffordshire, ST19 9PD).
Queer Places, Vol. 2.2: Retracing the Steps of LGBTQ people around the World
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