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Anna Seward’s Journal and Sermons

Anna Seward’s Journal and Sermons (Cambridge Scholars, 2017)

This is the full text of Anna Seward’s juvenile journal which is written in the form of a series of letters to an imaginary friend, “Emma”. Seward intended the letters to be an autobiographical account of the period of her youth from 1762-8 before she achieved fame as a published poet. Towards the end of her life, Seward had collated all her poetic works, the letter-journal, four sermons, a dissertation and some of her father’s and her friends’ poems for posthumous publication, bequeathing the manuscripts to Walter Scott. As much as the publication of her body of work, her intention was to consolidate her literary reputation into posterity. Seward’s lawyer, Charles Simpson, reminded Scott of his “sacred” duties as the conserver of “the fame of a lady who has placed the rank she is destined to hold under your care and protection”. However, as Scott disliked much of the anecdotal substance of the letters, he censored them, removing over half of the contents. Fortunately, he retained the censored sections and I have restored the journal to its original format to publish it as Seward intended. Also included in this volume is a portfolio of four Anglican sermons written by Seward and delivered by unsuspecting clergymen who, Seward claimed, had no idea they were written by a woman. These were also excised by Scott who agreed with Seward’s family that the sermons were, “nearly the reverse of what that solemn Composition should be”. The sermons are published in full here and provide retrospective evidence of Seward’s contribution to feminist Enlightenment debate.