1792 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ann Yearsley

Maria Edgeworth to Sophy Ruxton, 9 March 1792; Life and Letters, ed. Hare (1895) 1:23-24.



Mrs. Yearsly, the milkwoman, whose poems I dare say my aunt has seen, lives very near us at Clifton: we have never seen her, and probably never shall, for my father is so indignant against her for her ingratitude to her benefactress, Miss Hannah More, that he thinks she deserves to be treated with neglect. She was dying, absolutely expiring with hunger, when Miss More found her. Her mother was a washerwoman, and washed for Mis More's family; by accident, in a tablecloth which was sent to her was left a silver spoon, which Mrs. Yearsly returned. Struck with this instance of honesty, which was repeated to her by the servants, Miss More sent for her, discovered her distress and her genius, and though she was extremely eager in preparing some of her own works for the press, she threw them all aside to correct Mrs. Yearsly's poems, and obtained for her a subscription of 600. In return, Mrs. Yearsly accused her of having defrauded her, of having been actuated only by vanity in bringing her abilities to light — a new species of vanity from one authoress to another — in short, abused her in the basest and most virulent manner. Would you go to see Mrs. Yearsly?