Anna Seward Letters

Scope and Content

A small collection of letters from Anna Seward to Colonel Thomas Dowdeswell, and Mrs Dowdeswell, 1764-1804, together with miscellaneous letters including two from her parents, 1764 and others from her including a contemporary transcript of a letter to Helen Williams, the author, in Paris 1793. The contents of the letters reveal Seward's thoughts and comments on society in Lichfield, the British Government and its management of the Napoleonic wars, and information about her personal life and her writings.

Administrative / Biographical History

Anne, or Anna Seward (1742-1809), the 'Swan of Lichfield', poet and letter writer, was born in Eyam, Derbyshire. She was the only surviving child of Rev Thomas S. Hunter (also a poet and Canon of Lichfield from 1754) and his wife, Elizabeth (ne Hunter). In 1780, she drew public notice with elegiac poems on David Garrick and Captain Cook and these were followed by a poem in 1781 about Major Andre (a former suitor of Honora Sneyd who subsequently married Maria Edgeworth's father) and another one in 1782 about Anne Miller. Other publications included her verse novel Louisa (1784), a poem on her friends the Ladies of Llangollen in 1796, her sonnets in 1799, and Memoirs of Erasmus Darwin in 1804. The Gentleman's Magazine also published her versions of Horace's Odes and controversial letters - published under the pseudonym Benvolio , 1786-87 and then under her own name. She had extensive literary friendships who included Erasmus Darwin and Thomas Day. She left her literary manuscripts to Sir Walter Scott who edited her collected works which were published in three volumes with a memoir in 1810

Reference: Aristocratic Women: the social, political and cultural history of rich and powerful women. A Listing and Guide to Part 2 of the Microfilm Collection ( Adam Matthew Publications, 1998 ).


The letters are arranged chronologically.

Access Information

Open. Access to all registered researchers.

Acquisition Information

The letters to Dowdeswell were purchased in 1968; other letters were purchased in 1971 and 1974 and added to the collection.

Other Finding Aids

See the full catalogue for further details

Alternative Form Available

The Anna Seward Letters are available on microfilm. were micropublished by Adam Matthew Publications in 1998.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the University Archivist, Special Collections. Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Special Collections will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.


Further deposits are not expected.


The Anna Seward Letters were micropublished by Adam Matthew Publications in 1998.