Susanna Blamire

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Susanna Blamire
Susanna Blamire Cambruzzi.jpg
Born 1747
Died 1794 (aged 46–47)
Nationality English
Occupation poet

Susanna Blamire (1747–1794) was an English poet, known as The Muse of Cumberland. Her poems, collected in 1842, depicted Cumbrian life and manners. Her song And Ye shall walk in silk attire is particularly remembered.[1]


Blamire was born at Cardew Hall, near Cardew, Cumberland, on 12 January 1747. Her parents were William Blamire, a farmer who died in 1758, and Isabella Simpson of Stockdalewath who died in 1753. Left an orphan, she went to live with her mother's sister Mary who farmed at Thackwood, Stockdalewath. Through her brothers William, married to a sister of John Christian Curwen and father of William Blamire, and Richard, a bookseller in London, Susanna Blamire was connected to the wider worlds of politics and the arts.[2][3] Her sister married Colonel Graham of Gartmore, an officer in the Highland regiment,  giving a social connection to Scotland. Susannah went as her sister's companion on trips to The Scottish HighlandsLondon and Ireland[4]

In Carlisle she encountered Catharine Gilpin of Scaleby Castle, who became a friend and possibly, according to Mandell Creighton, a co-author in verse.[5]

Through another aunt, Mrs Fell a curates wife from Chilingham, she befriended the aristocratic Tankerville family . A family tradition maintains that there was talk of a possible marriage between her and the family's eldest son, Lord Ossulton, but the rigid social mores of the times prevented it and he was sent abroad. She remained unmarried.[6]

Blamire suffered from a recurrent and severe form of rheumatic heart disease, which killed her at the age of 47.[2]

She died in 1794 in Carlisle and is buried by her own request at Raughton Head chapel.[7]


Blamire published little in her lifetime. Anonymously, in the Scots Musical Museum, she contributed songs in Lallans: What ails this Heart o' Mine?, and The Siller Croun (alias And ye shall walk in Silk Attire).[8] With The Waefu' Heart, these three of her works were set to music by Joseph Haydn.[9][10] She used Gothic allegories in Standard English and songs in Lowland Scots to express passionate emotions, What ails this Heart o' Mine being an example. Like William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge in their Lyrical Ballads of 1798, she wrote vignettes about local people and scenes, though in Cumberland dialect.

Two admirers of her work, Patrick Maxwell of Edinburgh and Dr Henry Lonsdale of Carlisle began collecting her manuscripts in 1836.[7]

Patrick Maxwell, who edited the collection of Blamire's poems published in 1842, claimed she was "unquestionably the best female writer of her age". He also attributed to her The Siller Croun.[11] Charles Dickens in his The Old Curiosity Shop (1841, end of chapter 66) had quoted its first two lines:

" 'Sir' said Dick [Swiveller], ... 'we'll make a scholar of the poor Marchioness yet! And she shall walk in silk attire, and siller have to spare, or may I never rise from this bed again!' ".

Hugh MacDiarmid praised her in a radio broadcast in 1947, as "this sweet Cumbrian singer". He insisted that her Scottish songs are "the high-water mark of her achievement … so good that they can be set beside the best that have ever been produced by Scotsmen writing in their own tongue".[12] Jonathan Wordsworth in 1994, dubbed her "The Poet of Friendship", predicting on BBC Radio Cumbria in 1998 that "Susanna will eventually be seen as important as the other Romantic poets writing during the eighteenth century, and should be more widely read". In The New Penguin Book of Romantic Poetry he likened Blamire's social position to that of Jane Austen:

‘the well-to-do maiden aunt’s life of good works and humorous observation'.


  1. ^ George Sampson (1970). The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature. Cambridge University Press. p. 497. ISBN 978-0-521-09581-5. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Maycock, Christopher Hugh. "Blamire, Susanna". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/2600.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ Evans, Eric J. "Blamire, William". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/2601.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  4. ^ R. Lonsdale p278
  5. ^  Stephen, Leslie, ed. (1886). "Blamire, Susanna". Dictionary of National Biography. 5. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 
  6. ^ Lonsdale, Roger (Ed) (1989). Eighteenth Century Women Poets. Oxford. p. 278. ISBN 0192827758. 
  7. ^ a b R. Lonsdale p279
  8. ^ Adolphus William Ward; Alfred Rayney Waller (1932). The Cambridge History of English Literature. CUP Archive. pp. 232–. GGKEY:9TWG25E2E2T. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  9. ^ Vocal settings of texts by Susanna Blamire
  10. ^ The LiederNet Archive: The siller crown.
  11. ^ Susanna Blamire; Henry Lonsdale; Patrick Maxwell (of Edinburgh.) (1842). The Poetical Works of Miss Susanna Blamire ... J. Menzies. pp. xxxix–xl. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  12. ^ Christopher Maycock (2003). A Passionate Poet: Susanna Blamire, 1747-94 : a Biography. Hypatia Publications. p. 45. ISBN 978-1-872229-42-3. Retrieved 11 June 2013.