Anne Home Hunter (1741-1821) was one of the most successful song writers of the second half of the eighteenth century, most famously as the poet who wrote the lyrics of many of Haydn’s songs. However her work, which included many more serious, lyrical and romantic poems has been largely forgotten. This book contains over 200 poems, some published in her life-time under her married name ‘Mrs John Hunter’, some attributed only to ‘a Lady’, and most importantly many transcribed from her manuscripts, housed in various archives and in a private collection, which are now collected for the first time. Hitherto Anne Hunter has been known almost entirely through her ‘Poems’ published in 1802, in her Introduction Isobel Armstrong argues that she saw this book as a definitive representation of her poetry. Besides her consummately skilful lyrics and songs it contains serious political odes and reflective poems. The unpublished material amplifies and extends the work of 1802. The introduction is followed by a long biographical essay by Caroline Grigson. The daughter of Robert Home, an impoverished Scottish Army surgeon, Anne Hunter spent her adult life in London where she married the famous anatomist John Hunter, with whom she lived in great style, latterly as a bluestocking hostess, until his death in 1793. The book includes many new details of her long life, her friendship with Angelica Kaufman (who painted her portrait - see cover) and the bluestocking, Elizabeth Carter. The account of Anne’s life as a widow describes her relationships with her family, her niece the playwright Joanna Baillie, and her friends, especially those of the famous Minto family, as well as the Scottish impresario George Thomson. Of especial interest is the discovery of a previously unrecorded visit that Haydn made to her during his second London visit when she was living in Blackheath. Expertly researched which Grigson’s book sets Anne Hunter’s oeuvre in the political and social context of the time and will be required reading to scholars of literature and music alike.
A fine act of recovery and assembling.
Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, Vol. 50.3
In collecting Anne Hunter's verse, scattered through anthologies and archives, Caroline Grigson has taken a significant step towards restoring the reputation of this unfairly neglected poet.