Born in Derbyshire, British Romantic poet and novelist Anna Seward was the daughter of a clergyman and the only one of four children to reach adulthood. Her close friend, Honora Sneyd, was adopted into the family and served as the muse for many of Seward’s poems.
In 1750 her father was chosen as Canon of Lichfield Cathedral, and a few years later the family relocated to the Bishop’s Palace, where Seward lived for the rest of her life. In 1780 Seward’s mother died, and she remained at home to care for her father. She was active in Lichfield’s literary community, which included William Hayley, Erasmus Darwin, and Richard Lovell Edgeworth.
Seward’s works include Elegy on Captain Cook; to which is added An ode to the sun (1780), Monody on the Death of Major André (1781), and Louisa: A Poetical Novel in Four Epistles (1784), as well as Memoirs of the Life of Dr. Darwin (1804), a biography of Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles Darwin. Her Collection of Original Sonnets appeared in 1799. Seward is often referred to as the Swan of Lichfield, and many of her poems are concerned with romantic themes.
She was a prolific literary correspondent, and after her death three volumes of her letters and poems were published, with an introduction by Sir Walter Scott, as The Poetical Works of Anna Seward with Extracts from Her Letter and Literary Correspondence (1810). Her complete correspondence was published in six volumes in 1811.