Anne Hunter

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William Blake: Cover Sheet to "Elegy" by Anne Hunter set to music by Thomas Coming. 1786 Inscribed below image, The shatter'd bark from adverse winds / Rest in this peaceful haven finds / And when the storms of life are past / Hope drops her anchor here at last.

Anne Hunter (nee Home) (1742-1821) was the wife of the celebrated surgeon John Hunter, and a minor poet. She is mostly remembered now for the texts to at least nine of Joseph Haydn's 14 songs in English. Their relationship during Haydn's stay is ambiguous, though at the time she was a widow. Songs by Haydn on her texts include: The Mermaid's Song, Fidelity, Pleasing Pain, and The Spirit's Song and a lybretto for The Creation, which was based on John Milton's Paradise Lost.[1]

Biography[edit]

Hunter was the eldest daughter of surgeon Robert Boyne Home of Greenlaw Castle, Berwickshire, and sister of Sir Everard Home.

She married John Hunter in July 1771. Before her marriage she had gained some note as a lyrical poetess, her "Flower of the Forest" appearing in The Lark, an Edinburgh periodical, in 1765. Her social literary parties were among the most enjoyable of her time, though not always to her husband's taste. Elizabeth Carter and Mary Delany were her attached friends, and Haydn set a number of her songs to music, including "My Mother bids me bind my Hair," originally written to an air of Pleydell's. On her husband's death in 1793, Mrs. Hunter was left ill provided for, and for some time she was indebted for a maintenance partly to the queen's bounty and to the generosity of Dr. Maxwell Garthshore, and partly to the sale of her husband's furniture, library, and curiosities (Ottley, Life of Hunter, pp. 137–9). Her son-in-law, Sir James Campbell of Inverneill provided her with a small annuity, and in 1799 parliament voted to give her ₤15,000 for the Hunterian museum, which finally placed Mrs. Hunter in fair circumstances.

She had four children, of whom two, (a son and a daughter, Lady Campbell) survived her. She lived in retirement in London till her death on 7 January 1821. Her poems (12mo, London, 1802; 2nd edition, 1803) show no depth of thought, but have a natural feeling and simplicity of expression, which make many of them worth reading (see British Critic, October 1802, xx. 409-13). Her "Sports of the Genii," written in 1797 to a set of graceful drawings by Miss Susan Macdonald (d. 1803), eldest daughter of Lord-chief-baron Macdonald, display in addition humour and fancy.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Caroline Grigson. 2009. The Life and Poems of Anne Hunter: Haydn's Tuneful Voice. Liverpool University Press,
  2. ^  Bettany, George Thomas (1891). "Anne Hunter". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography 28. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 

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