Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

“Leave me to enjoy the sweet Freedom I love”

I wish I had kept a commonplace book. I could never muster enough discipline or time to do so although there are bits and pieces of things I found interesting—from magazine articles to photos, from odd words to poems, from recipes to DYI columns—scattered here and there in physical notes or on my computer. MILCAH MARTHA MOORE (1740-1829), however, did keep a commonplace book: copying poems she found interesting, letters from friends, items from newspapers and passages from books, usually for her own pleasure, but often with the intention of sharing them with friends or relatives in the Philadelphia area. Poems she copied were frequently by women who had not been able to publish them but who were able to achieve some recognition by having them circulated among women friends.

What follows is a poem titled “To Sophronia” by HANNAH GRIFFITTS (1727-1817), Moore’s second cousin, signing herself “Fidelia.” The name “Sophronia” was often used to refer to an unmarried woman so the title is apt for this poem praising the single life.

I’ve neither Reserve or aversion to Man,
(I assure you Sophronia in jingle)
But to keep my dear Liberty, long as I can,
Is the Reason I chuse to live single,
My Sense, or the Want of it—free you may jest
And censure, dispise, or impeach,
But the Happiness center’d within my own Breast,
Is luckily out of yr. reach.
The Men, (as a Friend) I prefer, I esteem,
And love them as well as I ought
But to fix all my Happiness, solely in Him
Was never my Wish or my Thought,
The cowardly Nymph, you so often reprove,
Is not frighted by Giants* like these,
Leave me to enjoy the sweet Freedom I love
And go marry—as soon as you please.

Fidelia

[Marginal note:]
* The satyrical Sneers thrown on the single Life.—

Illustration: Anonymous manuscript, mid seventeenth century, containing poems by various authors, in various hands. Includes Shakespeare’s second sonnet. James Marshall and Marie-Louise Osborn Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, found HERE. The poem appears in Milcah Martha Moore’s Book: A Commonplace Book from Revolutionary America edited by Catherine La Courreye Blecki and Karen A. Wulf (University Park, Pennsylvania: Penn State University Press, 1997), pp 173-74.

posted July 23rd, 2018 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Griffitts, Hannah,Moore, Milcah Martha,Philadelphia,Poetry,Primary sources

“And breathing figures learnt from thee to live”

Another item of interest about SARAH MOORHEAD (see previous posts) is her connection to a slave of the family called Scipio who is thought to have been a talented working artist around 1773. Sarah was a teacher of drawing and painting so it is possible, even likely, that she recognized his talent and was his teacher. But the only piece of art ascribed to Scipio Moorhead that has survived is the portrait of Phillis Wheatley, on the frontispiece of her published book of poetry: Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773). (See posts on Wheatley here, here, here, here. here, and here.) A poem, “To S.M., A Young African Painter, on Seeing His Works,” written by this enslaved African-American poet has been cited as evidence that the engraving was made from a painting by Moorhead. (A note by a white reader in an early copy of the book mentions Scipio by name.)

When first thy pencil did those beauties give,
And breathing figures learnt from thee to live,
How did those prospects give my soul delight,
A new creation rushing on my sight!

It is true that the Moorheads and the Wheatleys were neighbors and that the two slaves knew each other. However, the assumption that Scipio is the artist of the frontispiece has been challenged by Eric Slauter, author of the article “Looking for Scipio Moorhead” in Slave Portraiture in the Atlantic World. He presents evidence based on the Scipio’s age, his contact with other painters, the current styles in portraiture, and his appearance in ads for the auctioning of the estate of John Moorhead and that of his daughter Mary. The historian J.L. Bell, in his blog Boston 1775, is quite persuaded that Slauter is right. He suggests that an another black artist working at the time with several works attributed to him, Prince Demah, may have been the actual artist of the Wheatley portrait. See two posts by my colleague Louise North on Prince Demah here and here.

Eric Slauter’s article appears in Slave Portraiture in the Atlantic World, edited by Agnes Lugo-Ortiz, Angela Rosenthal (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 89. Read the complete poem HERE.

posted August 17th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Art,Moorhead, Scipio,Poetry,Prince Demah,Wheatley, Phillis

“While woman’s bound, man can’t be free . . . “

New Jersey was the first state to grant women the right to vote. They, as well as men, had to be property holders. Because there was some confusion about what the State Constitution meant on the subject, in 1797 a law was passed confirming that women had the right to vote statewide. See “for whom he or she votes” below.

An Act to regulate the Election of Members of the Legislative-Council and the General Assembly, Sheriffs and Coroners, in this State
Passed by the New Jersey General Assembly at Trenton, February 22, 1797.
[…]
9. And be it enacted, That every voter shall openly, and in full view deliver his or her ballot (which shall be a single written ticket, containing the names of the person or persons for whom he or she votes) to the said judge, or either of the inspectors, who, on receipt thereof, shall, with an audible voice, pronounce the same of such voter, and if no objection is made to the voter, put the ballot immediately into the election box, and the clerk of the election shall thereupon take down the name of such voter in a book or poll list, to be provided for the purpose; and if an adjournment of the poll shall take place during the election, the aperture in the top of the box shall be secured by the bolt aforesaid, and the names on the poll list shall be counted, and the number put down in writing, and the said list locked in the box, and the keys kept separate by two of the persons hereby appointed to conduct the election.

The following poem appeared in 1797 in the “Newark Centinel of Freedom.” It reflects the difference of opinion on the matter of voting rights for women. “Democrats” refers to Jeffersonians. Women did vote in fairly large numbers, but not for long. The Assembly passed a law in 1807 limiting the franchise to white males.

Let Democrats with senseless prate,
maintain the softer Sex, Sir,
Should ne’er with politics of State
their gentle minds perplex Sir;
Such vulgar prejudice we scorn;
their sex is no objection. . . .
While woman’s bound, man can’t be free
nor have a fair election.

See this SOURCE for New Jersey’s actions. Find the poem HERE.

posted April 17th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: New Jersey,Poetry,Voting rights

“that heavy lifeless lump a wife”

GRACE GROWDEN came from a Philadelphia family of wealth and social standing. She had a mind of her own; on a trip to England in 1747 to visit her sister she fell in love with a Mr. Milner who was a customs collector at Poole. Her father forbid the union ordered his daughter home. She complied. In 1753 Grace married Joseph Galloway who inherited his father’s land holdings and mercantile business. Galloway became a lawyer with a prosperous practice in Philadelphia whose marriage to Grace enhanced his social and financial standing. Upon her father’s death Grace inherited the family mansion in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, but as women were not allowed to own property at this time her husband became its owner. The Galloways had three children, one of whom, Betsy, survived past childhood. The marriage was stressful and Grace was not happy. In 1759 she wrote “[I] find myself neglected, loathed, despised.” In her poetry she complained about the tyranny of men and the suffocating constraints of marriage. In one:

…I am Dead
Dead to each pleasing thought each Joy of Life
Turn’d to that heavy lifeless lump a wife.

In another:

never get Tyed to a Man
for when once you are yoked
‘Tis all a Mere Joke
of seeing your freedom again.”

Life became complicated as the Revolution approached. Joseph Galloway opposed independence and as a member of the First Continental Congress proposed a conciliatory plan toward Britain. It was rejected. After the Declaration of Independence was approved Galloway, fearing for his safety, fled to a British camp and then to New York City where he joined the British forces. By now a staunch Loyalist, Galloway followed General William Howe when he occupied Philadelphia and became that city’s Superintendent of Police and of the Port. In 1778 Pennsylvania passed a law by which property of Loyalists was confiscated. A substantial amount of Galloway’s holdings included property inherited by Grace, and when the British evacuated the city she determined to stay on —alone, since her husband had left with her beloved daughter—to try to save it. More from the diary Grace Galloway kept during this period in the next post.

Sources include Texts on The Origins of Liberty Rhetoric, 1770s-1820s and History of American Women, which can be viewed HERE.

posted January 19th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Galloway, Grace Growden,Galloway, Joseph,Loyalists,Pennsylvania,Philadelphia,Poetry

“Balloon mania”

The Montgolfier brothers launched their first balloon (powered by hot air) in June of 1783. Jacques Charles and the Robert brothers, Anne-Jean and Nicolas-Louis, launched a hydrogen balloon from the Champs de Mars in Paris on August 27, 1783 before a huge crowd of onlookers. The balloon landed 45 kilometers away where it was attacked and destroyed by frightened peasants with pitchforks.
Another Montgolfier balloon, this time carrying sheep, a duck, and a rooster in a basket attached to the balloon, rose into the sky on September 19. The craft landed safely with the animals no less the worse for wear.
These successes spawned a slew of subsequent flights by various engineers and inventors, with human passengers, across the English Channel in 1785 and in 1793 in Philadelphia, the launch of which was watched by George Washington. There were accidents, of course, the first in Ireland in 1785 in which the balloon crashed and nearly destroyed the town of Tullamore by fire.

Percy Bysshe Shelley composed this Sonnet:

To a balloon, laden with Knowledge

Bright ball of flame that thro the gloom of even
Silently takest thine etherial way
And with surpassing glory dimmst each ray
Twinkling amid the dark blue Depths of Heaven
Unlike the Fire thou bearest, soon shall thou
Fade like a meteor in surrounding gloom
Whilst that unquencheable is doomed to glow
A watch light by the patriots lonely tomb
A ray of courage to the opprest & poor,
A spark tho’ gleaming on the hovel’s hearth
Which thro the tyrants gilded domes shall roar
A beacon in the darkness of the Earth
A Sun which oer the renovated scene
Shall dart like Truth where Falshood yet has been.

Not everyone welcomed this fascination with flight. One author wrote: “Let us leave to each its domain,/ God made the skies for the birds;/ To the fishes, He gave the waters./ And to the humans, the Earth./ Let us cultivate it, my dear friends.”
But the balloon craze hit hard and was reflected in dress and hair styles, fashion accessories like cuff links and fans, furniture and snuff boxes, as well as many commemorative objects. And it was the subject of satire. Here are some examples.

You can even buy fabric (below on right) depicting airborne balloons for your walls today at 78 £ per meter.

posted July 20th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Amusements,Art,Fashion,France,Paris,Philadelphia,Poetry,Washington, George

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