PRIOR, Matthew

Henry and Emma. A Poem. (Transcribed in Manuscript by Anna Penelope Crownfield).

No place

Folio, 21 pages, 774 lines (in excess of 7000 words) holograph, ruled, a few corrections, some waterstains and ink stains, has been folded with wear affecting a few words, 3 blank pages at the end, stitched.


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Product Description

A first look at this manuscript would indicate a straightforward transcript of Prior’s poem ñHenry and Emma. A Poemî, but the dating of the transcript and the fact that it has been written by a lady make this a much more interesting item. Composed by Matthew Prior in 1708 and published in his collected ñPoems on Several Occasionsî (1709) this was one of the most popular verse works of the early 18th Century. It is modeled on the 16th Century Ballad ñNut Brown Maidî, in which a woman’s Fidelity was proven in a manner suggested by the Franciscan defence of Woman. Prior recast the text of female fidelity in an 18th Century idiom, in heroic couplets. It rapidly became an International success in translation and its popularity survived critical attacks from the likes of Samuel Johnson and Thomas Warton, but was defended by such champions as William Cowper, John Wesley and Horace Walpole. By the turn of the century, however, general admiration was on the wane. Then renewed interest was sparked by Jane Austen who alluded to it in her ñPersuasionî of 1817 and it is by this discreet reference that the poem is probably best known today. It was not separately published in English until 1775. This manuscript transcript is dated 1728 and therefore derives from the period when the poem’s popularity was peaking. It is in the hand of, and signed at the end by, an educated woman named ñAnna Penelope Crownfieldî. Our investigations suggest that she may well be the daughter of Cornelius Crownfield: printer, publisher, bookseller and custodian of the Cambridge University Press c. 1703-1743. The fact that it was transcribed by a woman at this early date is most interesting. We have managed to locate only one other reference to ñAnna Penelope Crownfieldî – in a Maggs catalogue of 1996 where her name appeared as a signature in a copy of ñOvid’s Epistlesî (1705) dated ñSep ye 29th 1735î.