The Bouquet, A Selection of Poems from the Most Celebrated Authors, with some Originals
London: E. Hodson, 1792.
London: E. Hodson, 1792. First edition. Two volumes bound in one. Contemporary tree calf rebacked to style with red morocco and gilt to spine. A lovely, square copy. Internally fresh and bright, retaining the original endpapers. Collating , v-xii, 9-200; , 5-11, [1, blank], xiii-xvi, 9-192, 185-192: bound without half-titles else complete with subscriber's list to preliminaries of volume II and an additional set of duplicate pages to rear of volume II. A scarce compilation of educational poetry directed toward female readers, ESTC records only 13 copies (9 of those in the US). It is presently the only copy on the market.
The anonymous male compiler of the present volume had a female readership in mind; women were, after all, an expanding market in the purchase of poetry books, etiquette, and novels. "In selecting the following poetical bouquet," he writes in the preface, "his chief care has been that whilst he considered the various tastes of the public, he endeavored, as much as possible, to blend instruction with amusement." And though he admits that he hopes the book will grace the library shelves of "the youth of both sexes," he has striven to avoid any work which could "offend the ear of Chastity." The two volumes of poetry that follow are in some ways typical of the period. Numerous entries focus on flowers, beauty, love, and friendship. Among the "most celebrated" authors, the compiler includes expected contemporaries Thomas Gray, Lord Lyttleton, and William Cowper. But he also incorporates a number of accomplished women writers -- among them Bluestocking Anna Laetitia Barbauld, the controversial Hannah Cowley (who had accused Hannah More of plagiarism), musician and poet Elizabeth Linley Sheridan, and celebrity writer and "English Sappho" Mary Robinson. These women, prolific in their own time, were not necessarily tame in their compositions or their personal lives. In this sense, the Bouquet pushes boundaries in adhering the "chaste" requirements and instead lures readers in selections from multiple influential women. Notably, their inclusion -- and some of their political leanings -- also highlight some more political inclinations in the included male-authored poetry. This is particularly the case for William Cowper's selections, which point readers toward abolitionist and anti-slavery causes (including On Slavery, The Negro's Complaint, and The African Boy). The Bouquet, then, operates under the disguise of chaste and innocent verses while presenting a largely female readership with cutting edge and politically charged work by both men and women.
ESTC T124910. (Item #3879)