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Lot 35

Signed by Author

35. [COOK LITERATURE]. SEWARD, Anna. Elegy on Captain Cook. To Which Is Added, An Ode to the Sun. Fourth Edition, with Additions. Lichfield: J. Jackson and J. Dodsley, 1784. 25, [1, blank] pp. 4to, recent brown morocco over tan cloth boards, spine gilt-lettered. Scattered light foxing, more prominent on title page and last leaf. Signed in ink by Seward in lower blank margin of last leaf.

     Fourth edition, revised, of the first English poem about Cook’s death (first edition, London, 1780, see Forbes, National Hawaiian Bibliography 25). Beddie 2443 (2 copies only). Cf. Hocken, p. 19. Holmes 50. Kroepelien 11843. O’Reilly-Reitman 9810. Sabin 79475.

     Cook’s biographer, Andrew Kippis, remarked that Seward’s poem was first “both in order of time and merit” (Life, p. 507). Seward (1747-1809), known as the “Swan of Lichfield,” produced so many poetic elegies and odes that it seemed impossible that anyone important could die during her lifetime without being memorialized. In a vein similar to the wag who remarked that Lydia Sigourney, “The Sweet Singer of Hartford,” had added “a new terror to death” by her poetic eulogies, Scott remarked that he could not ignore Sewell for fear of “my death being prematurely announced by a sonnet or an elegy” (DNB XVII, p. 1218). This edition is a true revised text, being longer than the first edition. Holmes quotes the Gentleman’s Magazine (September, 1780, p. 432) as commenting on the first edition: “With the assistance of the Muses, she has raised a trophy worthy of the memory of one of the greatest men this or any age or nation has produced.” For himself, Holmes states that the modern reader is likely to find the first edition “238 lines of rather turgid prose” (Holmes 36). Seward’s sympathies for Cook’s widow, however, are eloquently and poignantly expressed: “Go, wretched Mourner!—weep thy griefs to rest!” (p. 18). This poem was a quite popular tribute to Cook, as the many editions attest. ($750-1,500)

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