1893 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Anne Hunter

W. S. Crockett, in Minstrelsy of the Muse (1893) 85-87.



Anne Home, born in 1742, was the eldest daughter of Robert Boyne Home, surgeon, Greenlaw. She was a sister of the celebrated Sir Everad Home [1753-1832], and also of Robert Home, the painter [d. 1836], descended from the Homes of Greenlaw Castle. In July, 1771, she became the wife of John Hunter, the anatomist, and during the lifetime of her distinguished husband, received at her house in London the most eminent literary and scientific personages of the day. Dr. Hunter died in 1793, and after this event his widow sought a life of retirement, giving herself over to literary pursuits, especially the writing of verse, which she composed with wonderful facility and grace. She died of a lingering illness on the 7th June, 1821, leaving a son and daughter — the former a major in the army, and the latter the wife of General Campbell, son of Sir James Campbell of Inverneil.

In 1802 Mrs. Hunter published a collection of her poems dedicated to her son, John Banks Hunter. In a modest note to the reader she says: "The very favourable reception which has for some years been given to lyric poetry, whether ancient or modern, induces me to offer this small volume to the public, consisting chiefly of odes, ballads, and songs, and I have been further encouraged to take this step by the success which has attended some of the latter description of composition, already well known to the musical world. My little book will, I hope, escape the censure of being tedious; what other merit it may have beside its brevity, and whether its contents will bear to be read as well as sung, my readers must now be left to judge for themselves." The book contains a number of poems addressed to her son when at school, at college, and in the army; Carisbrooke Castle, a historical poem in twenty-two stanzas; several old English ballads, and many beautiful songs. Several of Mrs. Hunter's compositions have had a deserved popularity, and have been wedded to inspiring music by the illustrious Haydn, with whom she was on terms of much intimacy. When in London in 1791-93 the great composer was a frequent and honoured guest at her house.

There is a certain irresistible charm in the poetry of this fair singer — a sweetness and homeliness of expression which at once will rivet the attention, and touch a chord of sympathy in the heart of every reader. One who knew her well thus writes: "She possessed personal attractions of the highest order. Into whatever assembly she entered, the delicacy of her face, with the commanding grace of her person, gave her a peculiar air of distinction, and seldom failed to attract attention. But she never ascribed to her own merit the notice she received in society. Feeling herself the wife of a celebrated man, she was fond of imputing the attention she received to his character, doing injustice to herself from a generous pride of owing everything to him, and she never appeared so much gratified by attention as when she supposed it was shown to her for his sake."