Poems and Essays by a Lady Lately Deceased (in 2 vols)
Bath: R. Crutwell, 1786. Second edition. Contemporary calf with morocco labels to spines. Hinges front and rear cracked on both volumes but holding well, with the front of volume I being the most tender. Some chipping to extremities of spines, with some small loss near the crown of volume I. Bookplate of the Marquess of Headfort to front pastedowns of both volumes. Front endpaper loose on volume II. Internally clean, with none of the foxing typical of imprints from this period. Collates vii, [1, blank], , 250; , 194. Scarce in institutions and trade, ESTC reports only 14 university libraries in the North America holding the first edition of this title and 10 holding copies of the present second edition.
While now remembered as a member of the infamous Bowdler family -- associated with the censorship or "Bowdlerization" of Shakespeare done by her brother, the editor John Bowdler -- Jane was a poet in her own rite, and a mentor to her sister, the Bluestocking Henrietta Maria Bowdler. Passing the end of her life in hospital as an invalid, Jane composed multiple poems and essays which, at her death, Henrietta Maria compiled and published for the benefit of Bath hospital. This act, in its own time at least, cemented Jane's celebrity as a talented poet lost too soon." The book became extraordinarily popular. Seventeen editions were published at Bath in rapid succession...Queen Charlotte is said to have found the poems so comforting that she read them three times" (ODNB). This may have been the aim of Henrietta Maria, the author of Pen Tamar (a novel defending single women) and the friend of fellow Bluestocking Hannah More (the author of Strictures on Female Education). In her preface, Henrietta Maria provides the reader with a specific portrait of her sister. "The following Poems and Essays were written to relieve the tedious hours of pain and sickness. The Reader who seeks amusement only may possibly receive no gratification from the perusal of them...To the humble and pious Christian, who feels the pressure of distress and seeks in religion that consolation which nothing else can bestow, to him is presented an example of patience and resignation which no sufferings could conquer." Jane becomes, in this, not a trivial poet. Either of these would be problematic for a woman. Instead, Henrietta Maria crafts her into an exemplar of patience, a woman of piety who turns to her faith in the appropriate moments and gains comfort, and a poet driven by Christian impulse and not ambition to share her experience in writing. It further pressed the idea that Jane, or even Hannah More and Henrietta Maria herself, had right to enter Christian and literary dialogues.
ESTC T54036. (Item #3180)