HART, Mary Kerr. ~ Heath Blossoms: Or, Poems written in Obscurity and Seclusion … With a Memoir of the Author … Printed by W. Hill, Ballingdon: and Sold by Baldwin and Cradock … Deck, Shalders, Hunt and Piper, Ipswich; Deck, Bury; Hardacre, Hadleigh; Loder, Woodbridge; and Smith, Edinburgh. [c. 1830].
8vo (220 x 138 mm), pp. xxvii, , 30-144, lithographed frontispiece of Lavenham Church; frontispiece loose but holding, tissue-guard preserved but a little offsetting from title; untrimmed in publisher’s paper-backed boards, cloth spine with printed paper label; paper missing from upper board, spine sunned, corners bumped; contemporary ownership inscription.
First edition, very scarce, of this provincially-printed collection of poems, prefixed with a detailed account of the author’s financial distress.
In her sobering Introduction, Hart writes: ‘The dread of being overtaken by absolute penury, has induced the author of the following poems, to offer them to the public … and most of them partaking of the colour of her own dark and melancholy fate, it is necessary they should be prefaced with a short memoir of herself’. What follows is a curious narrative, punctuated with lengthy quotations from Hart’s correspondence with various financial institutions and private bodies. This demonstrates that Hart’s was a difficult life beset with financial woes, even before she became involved with a husband who misrepresented his estate, his means, and his debts. The memoir ends with copied correspondence between Hart and her husband’s creditors, whom she feels have treated her unjustly by taking her savings to make good on his arrears. She closes with a hope that ‘this humble volume fall into the hand of some friend to the oppressed, who will investigate the case, and endeavour to redress the injury!’
We may never know the outcome of this curious case, but perhaps inevitably the poems carry the tone of oppression and dismay, including ‘Written in Illness, and a Prospect of Death’, ‘Written during my Son’s Illness’ and ‘The Tear’. The Suffolk context—which is established with the attractive frontispiece of Lavenham Church—endures in a poem named for that building, ‘On Visiting Brenteleigh Hall’ and ‘Lines on James Reed, Esq., of Ipswich’. Johnson, Provincial Poetry 241; Jackson p. 552; Jackson, Women p. 147 (Hart 1 (a)). COPAC records just four copies in the UK: two at the British Library, one at Cambridge and another at Leeds.