London: Darnton & Clark, [c.1846]. First edition. Green morocco with elaborate gilt to spine and boards. All edges gilt. Yellow endpapers. Spine toned; gentle rubbing to extremities. Front hinge cracked but holding. Contemporary gift inscription to front endpaper: "Madeline Maxwell from her attached aunt Susan Maxwell. Jan 1st 1847." Scattered foxing to both titles. Measures 76 x 114mm. Collates vi, , 149, : lacking publisher's adverts to rear else complete. Scarce in trade and at institutions, OCLC lists only 8 copies at libraries.
While little is known about the author Elizabeth Hadfield, her small collection of verses participates in a larger poetry movement deploying horticultural imagery to express devotion and to justify their publications. "Well-tended gardens are horticultural signs of the presence of God among Christians. Women poets who are keen to remove the weeds from the garden of their soul mobilize green metaphors which function as powerful symbols of their moral and religious strength" (Moine). Drawing on religious constructions of nature, these women poets excuse their authorship by connecting it to devotion and self-deprecating their efforts. "The insistence on smallness is paradoxically one of the most prominent defining features of these women's natural verse...Women poets present themselves as undeserving amateurs and their poetical ambition as a futile activity, with their poems no more than artistic trifles. The parallel elaboration of a discourse centered on smallness and triviality functions to authorise and legitimize women who dare to write poems since their work is unchallenging in the eyes of their more legitimate male competitors...In Poetical Weeds by Elizabeth Hadfield, for example, the modest dimensions of which seem to echo the subject, and the author begins by establishing a metaphorical link between poems and weeds: 'The following Weeds have been gathered in the fields of imagination and are presented by the author to those kindred spirits who love the Muse. By some perhaps they will be considered humble even as weeds...perchance as background to the bouquet of choicer flowers supplied by the poets of England.' Hadfield presents herself as a humble contributor to English poetry whose verse mirrors her subject matter: illegitimate flowers that do not grow in the right place...It is precisely because her leaves (in both senses) are modest that they do not represent a threat to those in positions of cultural authority and, it is hoped, these gatekeepers will consequently offer no objection to her inclusion in the literary canon" (Moine). To this end, she uses her Invocation to beseech God's support and forgiveness as well: "My feeble efforts here be pleased to bless And grant at least a measure of success...And very watchful will my spirit be To write no thought inimical to Thee...as I pursue my cherished dream." (Item #3065)