A radish on a turnip: MRM to RA Davenport

Here’s a little gem from the archives: Mitford corresponded frequently in the 1810s with R. A. (Richard Alfred) Davenport, who published an annual Poetical Register (anthology of poetry), and appears to have been a strong and lasting fan of her writing. As I’m reviewing my pencil transcriptions from past research trips, I discovered among them a vivid self-caricature in a letter of Oct. 1814. Evidently Davenport wanted to meet Mitford in person, and she felt it necessary to caution him:

“. . .as I trust two people so well disposed to like each other (there’s vanity for you!) will not always be kept apart by those two formidable words Town & Country, you will see how much I resemble my Productions. In the meantime guard yourself from expecting anything fair or tall or slender or blue-eyed or flaxenhaired or poetical, but set a red turnip raddish or a full spread damask rose or an overblown peony or the full moon when it looks very bloody & portentous or any thing else that is red and round by way of a head on a good sized Norfolk turnip by way of body & you will have as correct a picture of your poor little friend as heart can desire.”

The letter goes on to comment on her elegy for her pet dog Marmion, which she hopes Davenport won’t publish if he thinks it’s likely to be ridiculed…We’ll have to see if it shows up in the Poetical Register and Repository of Fugitive Poetry for 1814-1815.


Published by

Elisa Beshero-Bondar

(until June 30, 2020): Director of the Center for the Digital Text and Associate Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg. (starting July 1, 2020): Director of the DIGIT program and Professor of Digital Humanities at Penn State University, the Behrend campus in Erie, PA. http://about.me/ebbondar

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