Anna Seward: Swan, Duckling or Goose?

  • Norma Clarke


Anna Seward was widely known in her lifetime and after as ‘the Swan of Lichfield’, a sobriquet we might consider belittling, but which she thought apt and appropriate: it placed her in the tradition of Pope, the ‘sweet swan of Twickenham’, and Shakespeare, ‘the swan of Avon’. It acknowledged her lifelong identification with Lichfield, her prominent place within it, and her eminence in a literary and cultural world beyond. As a woman of letters, a poet and a critic, Anna Seward felt she put Lichfield on the map. (Samuel Johnson’s fame was associated with London.) She had no difficulty seeing herself as a swan, full of elegant distinction and a serene conviction of her own grandeur. When she died in 1809, she left instructions in her long and detailed will that a monument should be raised to herself and her family and placed ‘in a proper part of Lichfield Cathedral’. She set aside £500 for this and wanted ‘one of the most approved sculptors’ to be commissioned for the job.1


Eighteenth Century Literary Criticism Proper Part Paradise Lost English Poetry 
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© Norma Clarke 2005

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  • Norma Clarke

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