WATTS, Susanna. ~ The Insects in Council, debating upon the Question of War or Peace, with other Poems … London: J. Hatchard and Son, Piccadilly; and A. Cockshaw, Leicester. 1828.
12mo (180 x 111 mm), pp. xii, 72; edges lightly browned; publisher’s pink printed boards; spine and upper cover sunned, loss of paper to lower part of spine, upper joint a little weak, faint water stain to lower board and rear endpapers.
First edition, very scarce. A fable in verse by the abolitionist, poet, translator—and creator of landscapes in feathers—Susanna Watts (1768-1842).
Watts urges readers not to be misled by the diminutive size of her insect protagonists: ‘The following little fable is not presented to the Public as a mere bagatelle of amusement suggested by the fashionable popularity of Entomology, but under a serious, anxious, and most sincere desire to inculcate respect and tenderness towards all the inferior creatures’. Indeed, animal cruelty was a particular bête noir of Watts, as was slavery, and she published widely on these topics, producing an anti-slavery periodical entitled The Humming Bird (twelve numbers, 1824–5). The Insects in Council encompasses both issues, as when Dragonfly implores his friend the Emmet: ‘Come, free all your slaves, and deserve our / Applause, / And nobly unite in our patriot cause!’.
After Watts’ death, the discovery of her scrapbook revealed a remarkable breadth of interests, with entries of poems, mementoes, statistics, portraits (many of women writers), and data on Hindu and Arabic languages, as well as detailed diagrams of the hold of a slave ship. The extraordinary landscapes which she crafted from feathers won a medal from the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce (ODNB). COPAC records just two copies, at the British Library and Bodley. Jackson 538; not in Jackson, Women.