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Elegy of Captain Cook to which is added, an Ode to the Sun

Date: 1780
Overall: 4 x 257 x 209 mm, 0.15 kg
Medium: Paper, ink.
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Books and journals
Object Name: Book
Object No: 00003933
Place Manufactured:London

User Terms

    A book titled 'Elegy on Captain Cook, to which is added an Ode to the sun' by Anna Seward.
    This copy is a first edition of an immensely popular lament on Cook's death that was hailed by the Gentleman's
    Magazine as "a trophy worthy of the memory of one of the greatest men this or any other age or nation has produced". Sewards elegy was greatly admired by David Samwell who had been the surgeon on the DISCOVERY and witness to the death of Captain Cook in 1779. Samwell presented some of his collection from the South Seas to Seward as a mark of his esteem.
    SignificanceIn this ode, Seward is an early part of a tradition portraying Cook as a highly idealized national hero.
    HistoryAnna Seward (1747 - 1809) was a long term resident of Lichfield, England, a poet and prolific correspondent to many of the literary figures in England at the time, including Samuel Johnson, Sir Walter Scott and Erasmus Darwin.

    Her 'Elegy of Captain Cook' was her first widely recognised work. Seward had submitted the poem to Lady Anna Miller's Poetical Amusements in 1780 where it won the coveted 'Myrtle Wreath' prize and opened up a larger audience and publishing doors for her. Samuel Johnson, the famed English poet wrote of the piece, 'Madam, there is not anything equal to your description of the sea around the North Pole, in your odeon the death of Captain Cook.'

    David Samwell, the surgeon aboard the DISCOVERY on Cook's third voyage, was also a poet and he read Seward's elegy to Cook. He contacted her to express his admiration and gratitude and later visited Seward when he gave her gifts from the voyage. The two would remain in contact for the next 19 years and on his death Seward wrote 'Early in December I lost, in the prime of his life, a valued friend and nineteen years correspondent. Yes, the humane, the lettered David Samwell, is no more. He was fellow-voyager to the brave Cook, and stood high in his esteem. My elegy on him procured me Mr Samwell's friendship.'

    Seward remained at Lichfield throughout her life and, being independently wealthy, never married. She had an extensive network of friends, both male and female, and upon her death her collection of letters were edited and published by Sir Walter Scott.

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