Anne Hunter

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Anne Home as The Pensive Muse, before her marriage to John Hunter. Engraving by W. W. Ryland, after a lost portrait by Angelica Kauffman, 1767.

Anne Hunter (née Home) (1742–1821) was a saloniere and poet in Georgian London. She is mostly remembered now for the texts to at least nine of Joseph Haydn's 14 songs in English. She was the wife of the celebrated surgeon John Hunter, and his anatomical collections in their marital home eventually formed the basis for the Hunterian Museum.

Biography[edit]

Hunter was the eldest daughter of surgeon Robert Boyne Home of Greenlaw Castle, Berwickshire..

In July 1771 she married John Hunter, one of the most distinguished scientists and surgeons of his day. Her brother Everard Home apprenticed to her husband as surgeon.

Her social literary parties were among the most enjoyable of her time, though not always to her husband's taste. The Bluestockings Elizabeth Carter and Mary Delany were her attached friends. Her husband's sister was widowed in 1778, which led indirectly to Dorothea and her children moving to London a few years later. Anne Hunter proved an inspiration to the young Joanna Baillie, who devoted herself seriously to writing poetry and drama.

On John Hunter's death in 1793, his widow was left ill provided for. 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.[1] 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 her husband's collections, which finally placed her in fair circumstances. (This became The Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons in London; when his anatomist brother to William died in 1783, he bequeathed his collection to Glasgow, where it became the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery.)

Anne Hunter had four children, of whom two, a son and a daughter, survived her. She lived in retirement in London till her death on 7 January 1821.

Poetry and songs[edit]

As a young woman she had gained some note as a lyrical poet, her "Flower of the Forest" appearing in The Lark, an Edinburgh periodical, in 1765. Thirty-two years later she wrote "Sports of the Genii" to a set of graceful drawings by Susan Macdonald (d. 1803), eldest daughter of Lord-chief-baron Macdonald; these display humour and fancy.[2] She published a volume of poems in 1802 which ran to a second edition the following year. The conservative magazine British Critic suggests that her poems show no depth of thought, but have a natural feeling and simplicity of expression, which make many of them worth reading.[3]

Haydn set a number of her songs to music, including "My Mother bids me bind my Hair," originally written to an air of Pleyel's. Her relationship with Haydn is ambiguous, though at the time of his visit 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 libretto for The Creation, which was based on John Milton's Paradise Lost.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ (Ottley, Life of Hunter, pp. 137–9)
  2. ^  Bettany, George Thomas (1891). "Anne Hunter". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography. 28. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 
  3. ^ British Critic, October 1802, xx. 409-13
  4. ^ Caroline Grigson. 2009. The Life and Poems of Anne Hunter: Haydn's Tuneful Voice. Liverpool University Press,

External links[edit]