BRIGHTON IN ITS HEYDAY

Brighton a Poem. Descriptive of the Place and Parts adjacent. And other Poems …

London: Printed for the Author. Sold by J. Harding … and by all the Booksellers at Brighton, Worthing, and Eastborne. 1809.

12mo., pp. [4], iii, [1], 12 [subscribers’ lists], 88, with a half title, an engraved frontispiece and a plate (views of Brighton and the Signal House); a very good copy, uncut, in the original boards, rebacked, soiled; printed paper label, ‘Brighton’, to front board; ownership inscription dated 1835.

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First and only edition of Mary Lloyd’s paean to the attractions of ‘Beauty, and fashion’s ever favourite seat’. The poem vividly portrays Brighton’s dazzling social round: the races, dances at the Assembly Rooms, plays at the theatre, and acrobatic shows at the circus. Particular attention is paid to the health-giving pursuit of bathing and Martha Gun, the famous ‘dipper’, is eulogised as the ‘sage priestess’ of its ‘divine’ rites. Published the year after the completion of the Prince Regent’s magnificent stables, known as the Brighton dome, Lloyd’s poem also records the early developments of the Royal Pavilion, before John Nash embarked on the construction of the elaborate palace familiar today. She praises ‘the lovely edifice’ which is ‘grac’d / With every beauty of inventive taste’, and admires (perhaps rather disingenuously) the ‘modest dome’ of the stables. Throughout the poem footnotes alert the reader to its close adherence to fact, pointing out significant etymologies, important dates, and local curiosities. The ‘Miscellaneous Poems’ at the end of the volume include three pieces written in a rather loose interpretation of Scottish dialect speech.

The list of subscribers includes the Duke of Clarence (the future William IV), and a Mrs Fitzherbert (probably the companion of the Prince Regent, who lived for a while in a rented villa near the Marine Pavilion).

Brighton appears to be Mary Lloyd’s first and only poetic foray, despite an encouraging reception from the Monthly Review which reckoned that she managed ‘to weave into her poem the characteristic features of the place’.

Jackson, Romantic Poetry by Women, p. 204.

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