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Blamire, Susanna (1747–1794)

Blamire, Susanna (1747–1794)

English writer, known as the Muse of Cumberland for her regional songs and poetry. Born Susanna Blamire at Cardew Hall, near Dalston, in Cumberland, England, on January 12, 1747; died in Carlisle, England, on April 5, 1794; daughter of Isabella (Simpson) and William Blamire (a yeoman); educated at village schools; never married; no children.

Selected works:

Poetical Works (1842).

In 1754, when Isabella Blamire 's death left her husband William with four children to care for, he sent daughters Susanna and Sarah to live with their maternal aunt, a Mrs. Simpson of Thackwood. Educated in the village schools of Raughton Head, Susanna Blamire began writing poetry and songs at a young age; her earliest effort, "Written in a Churchyard, on seeing a number of cattle grazing," was in imitation of Gray's "Elegy." Following the 1767 marriage of her sister Sarah to Colonel Graham of Gartmore, Susanna began to visit them in London, Ireland, and Scotland, but mostly she lived an uneventful life in Raughton Head among the farmers of the neighborhood. "An Epistle to her friends at Gartmore" gives a playful description of the mundane simplicity of her days.

A correspondence with Lord Osulton, the fourth earl of Tankerville, took on romantic tones, but Blamire's family rank probably precluded marriage. Instead, she remained single, and when Sarah's husband died in 1773, she became her sister's constant companion. Her best friend was Catharine Gilpin of Scaleby Castle. The two women spent the winters together in Carlisle, writing verse. Though she wrote poetry throughout her life, Blamire was known only for her songs, the most popular of which was "The Nabob." Called the Muse of Cumberland, she was often recognized in public and asked to play the guitar and sing.

Affected by rheumatism at an early age, Blamire remained optimistic, but she often referred to illness in her writings:

When wearisome sickness has taught me to languish
For Health, and the blessings it bears on its wing;
Let me hope (ah! how soon would it lessen my anguish)
That to-morrow will ease and serenity bring.

On April 5, 1794, Susanna Blamire died at age 47 and was buried at Raughton Head. Her poems, which were not collected during her lifetime, were first published in 1842 by Henry Lonsdale as The Poetical Works of Miss Susanna Blamire, the Muse of Cumberland, with a memoir by Patrick Maxwell. Some of her songs rank among the best of northcountry lyrics. "And ye shall walk in silk attire" and "What ails this heart o' mine," are well known, and were included in Johnson's Scots' Musical Museum.

suggested reading:

Maxwell, Patrick. "Preface and Memoir," in Poetical Works of Miss Susanna Blamire. Edinburgh: John Menzies, 1842.

Crista Martin , freelance writer, Boston, Massachusetts

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