Commonplace Book..


Original vellum bound notebook. Poetry - A M S on third front free endpaper and ownership inscription of the author, 1806 on verso of rear free endpaper. Some of lower edges damaged by silverfish, etc. and damp with a small loss of text.







1806 - 1820.

Item Description

MANUSCRIPT. 8vo. 6.5 x 8 inches. [94] pages, of which 5 blank. Loosely inserted: Lines written extempore on my Mother, single sheet folded.


The commonplace book of a young maid of Kent, began in 1806 at the age of eighteen and probably continued until 1820, which contains many of her own compositions. Anna Maria Sankey (1788-1879) was the eldest child of William Sankey (1760-1833) who qualified as a surgeon at St Bartholomew's Hospital and then practised at at Eythorne, Kent where she was born. Anna Maria had two younger brothers, both of whom survived into the 1860s, but after the death of her mother, Susanah Boteler (1746-99), her father married Mary Boys (1776-1864), daughter of John Boys, gentleman farmer of Betteshanger and author of A General View of Agriculture of the County of Kent. In 1803 William moved to a much larger practice at Wingham where Anna Maria kept her commonplace book and he had eleven further children, of whom five died in infancy. These losses may have inspired some of her poems including On the Death of an Infant, Lines on the Death of a Brother and Written to soothe the sorrows of a Mother on the loss of an Infant one month old. In her Lines occasioned by seeing a young Female with a Basket of Flowers, the verses soon lead to sorrowful reflections and a footnote, 'Mrs Mason died while drinking a glass of the water at Bristol Wells.' Her last poem, however, 'On an Imperfect Illumination (Nov. 20)' is of a more humorous, and punning bent, and begins:

'An old lady at Deal/In the height of her zeal/Resolved as a friend of the Queen/That in letters of Fire/For the fools to admire/The front of her house should be seen. Triumphant Innocence.'

This almost certainly refers to the affair of Queen Caroline which divided the country in late 1820. Caroline of Brunswick, the estranged wife of the new king, George IV, already accused of adultery, had returned to the country with much popular support and attempted unsuccessfully to take her place as Queen. It may therefore represent an event that actually occurred in nearby Deal. In addition to her own numerous compositions, Anna Maria also copied extracts from various contemporary authors, including Byron and Scott and this and other internal evidence shows that she continued the book into her early thirties. She went on to have a long life in Sholden, Kent, marrying William Watt (1781-1860) in 1818 and having two daughters, one of whom died in infancy, and three sons, two of whom became doctors.

[Stock No. 22383]


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