1855 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ann Yearsley

Sarah Josepha Hale, Woman's Record; or, Sketches of all Distinguished Women (1852; 1855) 560.



ANNE YEARSLEY, a poetess, novel-writer, and dramatist, born at Bristol about 1756. Her mother was a milkwoman in that city, and she for some time exercised the same occupation. She was taught by her mother and brother to read and write; and having had opportunities of perusing Young's Night Thoughts, and some of the works of Pope, Milton, Dryden, and Shakspeare, her talents were called forth, and she produced several pieces of poetry which excited the attention of Mrs. Hannah More. To the assistance and advice of that lady, she was much indebted for the improvement of her abilities; and under her patronage, she published by subscription a volume of poems in 1785. The profits of this work enabled her to relinquish her business, for the congenial employment of keeping a circulating library at Bristol Hot Wells. Her subsequent publications were, a second collection of "Poems on Various Subjects," 1787; a short poem "On the Inhumanity of the Slave Trade," 1788; "Stanzas of Woe," addressed to Levi Ames, Esq., mayor of Bristol, 1790; "Earl Godwin," an historical tragedy, which was performed at the Bristol and Bath theatres; and a novel, entitled "The Royal Captive," 1795, four volumes, 12mo., founded on the history of the man with the iron mask, imprisoned in the Bastile, whom she supposes to have been a twin-brother of Louis XIV. She experienced great encouragement from the public in the course of her literary career; but an unfortunate quarrel with her patroness, Mrs. More, which, like most affairs of the kind, was carried on in a manner by no means creditable to either party, tended somewhat to injure her popularity. Some years before her death, she retired from trade, and resided with her family at Melksham, in Wiltshire, in a state of almost absolute seclusion. She died May 8th, 1806, leaving a son and two daughters. Another son, who had studied painting as a profession, and who appeared to be a talented individual, was cut off by a pulmonary disease, two or three years previously to the death of his mother. As her name is connected with that of Hannah More, and our readers may, on that account, be curious to see some specimen of the Lactilla style of poetry, we insert one written to her patroness in the summer of their friendship, before the frosts of suspicion on one side, and self-conceit on the other, had blighted their trust and hope in each other. Mrs. More overrated her protogee at the beginning, but Mrs. Yearsley had talents of considerable power, as she proved, by continuing to write after her patroness had given her up.