The Widow's Plea: A Collection of Poetical Pieces, Chiefly Written During By-Gone Years of Peace and Prosperity; Now Published as a Medium of Appeal to the Sympathies of the Benevolent...
London: Published by Joseph Capes & Co. at Peternoster Row and Sold by the Widow Hammond, Kew-Green, 1836. First edition. Original publisher's pebbled cloth binding embossed in gilt and blind. Yellow endpapers. Spine a touch sunned; front endpaper removed. Bookplate of J. O. Edwards to front pastedown. Small dampstain to lower outer corner of title page, not affecting text. Collating [v], vi-viii,  12-78: complete, including half title and subscriber's list. A scarce example, OCLC records only 5 copies with libraries (2 of those in the U.S.). It is the only copy on the market.
From the outset, Mrs. Hammond makes it clear to her readers that her literary art stemmed originally from a desire to create rather than a need for income; and thus, the sale of these artistic wares for support in her poverty is akin to selling family heirlooms. Declaring herself "ashamed to beg," the author explains that the sale of her publication at least allows her to trade on something that reminds subscribers that she remains "a meritorious person" experiencing unexpected affliction stemming not from her own faults but the "pecuniary claims, though small in number, incurred previously to her bereavement by an affectionate husband." Within the small selection of poems, some touch on typical Victorian themes of Love and Friendship or of Prudence. Yet others feel highly personal -- or at the very least reveal the Widow Hammond to be performing personal loss to connect to readers. An Aspiration opens by reminding readers of the author's poverty and difficulty, for example. While An Epistle to a Beloved Sister concludes with the line "This dear sister died a few months later." Maternal Fears, meanwhile, speaks to the very real anxieties felt by a woman attempting to support not only herself but her children, in a time and place that gives her few economic options. Privately printed collections such as this, released later in one's life, "did not provide an opportunity for a poet to write for a public audience," and especially this early in the century, "women who chose the literary life often faced social censure and received substandard pay" (Cambridge Companion). A stirring reminder both of the wide number of women with literary talent, as well as those same women's social and economic precarity when orphaned or widowed. (Item #4145)