Mary Darwall

John Wall, "A Letter from Dr. Wall to a Friend of his, with the following Letter and Poem" London Chronicle (29 December 1761) 628.


The following Letters and Poem came accidentally into my hands some time ago. I think the verses are very extraordinary, and that the publication of themmay be of some service to their obscure author, by contributing to bring so much merit to light. I have no doubt of your judging them worthy of a place in your useful Paper; and am, Sir, your constant reader,

A. W.


Worcester, Jan. 30, 1760.


Agreeable to my promise I here send you a poem of the Warwickshire poetess's composition, together with a letter of her's to a young lady in the neighbourhood, which introduces it, and makes it intelligible. I believe you will think each of them very extraordinary, considering the manner in which she has been brought up, the whole of her education having been only such as the meanest of menial servants may have had, barely learning to read and write; and her whole life has been employed in the common drudgery of a mean farm-house. At her leisure hours I suppose she reads what books she can get, and her memory retains every thing that she does read, Shakespear, the Spectators, the Gentleman's Magazine, and two or three novels, are the chief books, I hear, she has made use of.

I am, &c.


Dear Miss L—N,

Did you ever read the History of Rasselas, prince of Abyssinia? I confess it is something odd to begin a letter with a question; but if you have not, you will think I am wandering in a fairy-field of my own creating: The author of that elegant Eastern tale, describes a large valley in the kingdom of Ambarra, one of the provinces of that extensive empire of Abyssinia. This place is encompassed with inaccessible mountains; the only entrance is a cave which passes under a rock; the out-let is concealed by a thick wood; and the mouth which opens into the Happy Valley (for that is the appellation he gives it) is secured by iron gates, so massy that they cannot be opened without engines. In this terrestrial paradise, where every blast shakes spice from the rocks, and every month drops fruits upon the ground; where all the diversities and blessings of nature are collected, and all the evils excluded, the children of the empire are confined, according to the policy of the East; and whoever, instigated by curiosity or love of solitude, or any other motive, gets admittance into the Happy Valley, is never suffered to return. The last line or stanza you favoured me with, seems to imply something of description: — Now as the depth of December, in our cold climate, affords no agreeable objects to furnish a description-piece, I have supposed myself one of the inhabitants of this romantic region; as confinement, however splendid, cannot be agreeable to human nature, were all this real, and I allotted to live in it, I should sigh for Berty, frosty weather, and freedom. I acknowledge this subject is too high for my home-bred abilities; but the lines, such as they are, are much at your service, as is also, dear Miss, your most obedient,

To you, Eliza, be these lines consign'd,
Who blest in Freedom's happy empire live;
Whilst I, alas! am pompously confin'd,
Bereft of ev'ry joy this world can give.

Thrice happy vales, to me no longer bloom,
Tho' spring eternal decks the fragrant shades;
In vain the dewy myrtle breathes perfume,
In vain soft music echoes thro' the glades.

The marble palaces and lofty spires,
Are all but pageant glare and empty show;
Ah! how unequal to my fond desires,
Which tells me, Freedom makes a Heaven below.

Pensive I range the ever-verdant groves,
And sigh, responsive to the murm'ring stream,
While woodland choirs chant forth their tuneful loves,
Dear Liberty is wretched Mira's theme.

Fair plains diversify'd with beauteous flow'rs,
In sweet succession ev'ry morn the same;
Fresh gales that breath thro' amaranthine bow'rs,
And ev'ry charm inventive Art can name.

Here deck fair Nature's ever-smiling face,
And here, in gay Captivity confin'd,
Each child of Abyssinia's royal race
Is to inglorious Solitude assign'd.

Tho' festive mirth still wakes each waking morn,
And guiltless revelry leads on the hours;
Tho' purling rills the fruitful meads adorn,
And the high rock its spicy produce show'rs,

But what is there to fill a boundless mind?—
Tho' rich each scene appears 'tis still the same,
Variety, in vain, I hope to find;
Variety — thou dear, but distant name.

With pleasure cloy'd, and surfeited with ease,
No sweet alternative my spirits chear;
Joys long pursu'd lose all their pow'r to please,
And harmony is discord to my ear.

Blest Freedom! how I long with thee to rove!
Where varying Nature ev'ry charm displays;
To range the cloud-topt hills, the lawns, the groves,
And trace the winding currents silver maze.

Free as the wing'd inhabitants of air,
Who distant climes and different seasons see,
Regions as soft Ambarra's valley fair,
Blest with cool breezes, Peace, and Liberty.

Vain wish! — these rocks whose summits pierce the skies,
With frowning aspect tell me hope is vain—
'Till freed by death the purer spirit flies,
Here wretched Mira's destin'd to remain.