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Seymour, Frances Thynne (1699–1754)

Seymour, Frances Thynne (1699–1754)

English poet and countess of Hertford. Name variations: Frances Thynne; duchess of Somerset. Born on May 10, 1699, in Longleat, Warminster, Wiltshire, England; died on July 7, 1754, at Percy Lodge, Iver, Buckinghamshire, England; interred in Westminster Abbey; daughter of Honorable Henry Thynne and Grace Strode Thynne; married Algernon Seymour (b. 1684), Baron Percy, earl of Hertford and later 7th duke of Somerset, on March 1, 1715; children: Elizabeth Percy (1716–1776), duchess of Northumberland; George Seymour (b. 1725), Lord Beauchamp.

An English noblewoman, Frances Seymour, countess of Hertford, was a patron of letters and a poet herself. She was born in 1699 and raised at the palace of Longleat until her father, heir to Viscount Weymouth, died in 1708; she then moved with her mother Grace Strode Thynne to Leweston. Frances received a thorough education in history, languages, and literature. In 1715, her mother agreed to Frances' marriage to Algernon Seymour, earl of Hertford and the heir to the duke of Somerset. Despite the 15-year difference in their ages, the couple were very happy, as their voluminous surviving correspondence reveals. Frances Seymour had two children, dividing her time between the Hertford estate at Marlborough and their London home.

In 1723, her husband was named to the House of Peers, and she was appointed Lady of the Bedchamber to the princess of Wales, later Queen Caroline of Ansbach , a position she would hold until 1737. Her duties required considerable time at the royal court, where she became an intimate of the queen and other noble-women who shared her literary interests. Her first known verses were written about 1723, and throughout her life she would often exchange verses with her correspondents. In 1725, she allowed some to be printed, though anonymously, in the poetry collection A New Miscellany. Despite the praise her poems received, Seymour always considered writing only a pastime and resisted publication. Often her poems imitate the style of well-known contemporary writers, or are written as odes to literary figures or friends. She had a close relationship with Elizabeth Singer Rowe , a religious Dissenter whom the Thynnes had protected, and whose poetry Seymour patronized and had published. In 1744, her only son died; in 1750 her husband, duke of Somerset since 1748, died as well. Deeply moved by their deaths, Seymour sought consolation in religious devotion. After 1744, Seymour's letters and verses were devoted more to pious themes, reflecting the influence of Rowe and of another correspondent, the Methodist leader Selina Hastings , countess of Huntingdon. Frances Seymour retired from public life after 1750 but continued to compose religious verses until her death at age 55.

sources:

Buck, Claire. The Bloomsbury Guide to Women's Literature. NY: Prentice Hall, 1992.

Hughes, Helen Sard. The Gentle Hertford: Her Life and Letters. NY: Macmillan, 1940.

Laura York , M.A. in History, University of California, Riverside, California

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