Flowerdew, Alice (1769-1830)


Alice Flowerdew (1759-1830) published Poems, on moral and religious subjects in London in 1803, which was sold by Flower’s friend, H. D. Symonds, as well as Martha Gurney.  Mrs. Flowerdew, a General Baptist and Unitarian, was preparing to open a boarding school for young ladies at No. 1, Upper Terrace, High Street, Islington, with a focus on “writing, geography, drawing, music, and dancing.” She notes in her advertisement that she had been “long engaged in the Education of Youth.” The last poem in her book was titled “Elegiac Lines, on the death of Charles Frederic Flowerdew, who died November 29th, 1802, aged 21 years.”  Her stepson, Charles (the second son of her deceased husband, Daniel, by a former wife), had died suddenly of a fever and was interred in the burial grounds at the General Baptist church in Worship Street, where Mrs. Flowerdew attended. The Rev. John Evans, her pastor, preached her son’s funeral sermon.  She writes in “Elegiac Lines,”


’Tis fled-the sweetest solace of my care,

Cut down in all the pride of youthful bloom,

I’ve seen thee hurried to th’ untimely tomb-

My fond aspiring hope for ever crost;

My Son, my Friend, my Help forever lost!

Among the subscribers to her Poems were several individuals who appear in the Flower letters: Mrs. John Addington of Spital Square; Flower’s friends, John Copland and his daughter Ann of Saxthorpe Hall; Mrs. William Chaplin of Bishop Stortford; James Finch, Esq., of Castle Hedingham; John Gurney, Esq., of Walworth; Henry Gunning of Ickleton, Cambridgeshire and his wife and daughter; Martha Gurney of Holborn; William Hawes of Spital Square; Mrs. Benjamin Hawes of Blackfriars; Miss Ann Jones; and the Rev. Russell Scott of Portsmouth (121-58)Oddly enough, despite Eliza’s statement in the above letter, the Flowers do not appear among the list of subscribers.  Mrs. Flowerdew would later become a member of the “Glasshouse” congregation in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk; she also published a popular hymn on the seasons in 1811 (Julian 112). 

  


Published Works


Poems, on Moral and Religious Subjects. London: C. Stower, 1803. available in free ebook form from the HathiTrust Digital Library (original sourced from Univ. of California) at <http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc2.ark:/13960/t7wm1784s;view=1up;seq=8>.






Annotated Selections

1. “Harvest Hymn.” Printed in Lyra Britannica: A Collection of British Hymns. with author sketches by Rev. Charles Rogers. London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1868. free ebook on Google at <https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=BaIOAAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&output=reader&hl=en&pg=GBS.PA230>.

Her hymn is mistakenly published under the name Mrs. Anne Flowerdew (230), and author says that the poem was originally published in a re-issued 1811 edition of “Poems on Moral and Religious Subjects” which Flowerdew published by subscription in 1803*. The author, Rogers, notes on page 679, “Through the kindness of Dr. Joseph Rix, of St. Neots, we learn that the Christian name of the author of the “Harvest Hymn” was Alice, not Anne, as stated in the text. Mrs. Alice Flowerdew (according to Dr. Rix, who received his information from her grandson, Mr. J.D. McKenzie, of St. Albans) was the second wife of Daniel Flowerdew, who some time held an appointment in the boarding-school for young ladies, first at Islington, and afterwards at Bury St. Edmunds. She died at Ipswitch, about the year 1831, at a very advanced age. She composed verses up to the close of her long life.” I’m not clear on why her hymn would have been listed under Anne Flowerdew, since she published her 1803 and 1811 book of poetry under Alice Flowerdew.

The hymn is a profession of thankfulness toward the Lord for the seasons. The spring blooms beauty from a seed the Lord planted, and He send renewing sunshine and rains to give birth to the seed and to cleanse the earth. The hymn contains much imagery and refers to the earth being blessed with each season’s change. After spring, the summer is a time for growth and grain that is maturing to be harvested in the approaching fall. When harvest and fall come next, Flowerdew expresses how men should remember to express their thankfulness to God that made it possible for the food to grow. The hymn is a cyclical song of praise toward God for the processes of nature that he sets into motion so that we can survive and be blessed with life.

 

2. “Fountain of Mercy.” Printed in Gleanings from the Sacred Poets, with Biographical Notices of the Authors. Gall & Inglis. found in free ebook form through Google at < https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=TRIDAAAAQAAJ&printsec=frontcover&output=reader&hl=en&pg=GBS.PR4>        

This is arguably Flowerdew’s most famous work, but it is not always attributed to being by written by her. The unknown editor of this book (I cannot find the editor’s name anywhere through research or on the source itself) writes in brief biography before the work that “Fountain of Mercy” has been attributed to John Needham in the past. I verified in a search of Google that other sources seemed to report this, and several mentioned corrections to who originally wrote the song, finally giving Mrs. Flowerdew credit in the instances that I could find. The editor of this source goes on to mention that in this printing of the hymn, Needham “may have altered a few words in it” (154). This may be true*, but what the editor doesn’t mention is that this is the same exact poem as “Harvest Hymn” that was presented in ‘Annotation I’ above. “Fountains of Mercy” is the name that it came to be known by as it started to be set to music. In fact, there are many musical variations of the wording of it.


* There is not a poem or hymn by either of these titles in her published book, Poems. However, I found a description of the contents in a book located at Brown University Library that is described as being a book on broadsides, poetry, and hymns. I could not get hold of the book, but the description lists the contents as ‘–Hymn[First line: Fountain of mercy, God of love] / by A. Flowerdew.’ Its title is Cattle show & fair, Order of Exercises at the Congregational Meeting House, Thursday, October 7, 1852. (I also listed its full title and author information below, as I located it through WorldCat).


3. "92. Eliza Flower at the Gurneys, Walworth, to Benjamin Flower at Cambridge, Friday, 24 December 1802". Politics, Religion, and Romance: The Letters of Benjamin Flower and Eliza Gould Flower, 1794-1808. ed. Timothy D. Whelan. Aberystwyth: National Library of Wales, 2009. Print.

Flowerdew's immenent publishing of her poems in 1803 is mentioned this letter sent by Eliza to Benjamin Flower. It reads: "Mrs Flowerdews case is very distressing this son of hers which she has lately lost was her principal support she has wirtten Mrs Gurney some very affecting letters in the subject & sent her some proposals for printing by subscription a volume of poems which were written some years since for her amusement but which she now means to publish with the veiw of raising a sim to emable her to open a school."

The footnotes describe that Flowerdew's Poems was published and sold by subscription in 1803 by Eliza Flower's friend H.D. Symonds and Martha Gurney. Flower is commenting in the letter that Flowerdew's loss of her stepson, Charles Frederic Flowerdew, who died from a sudden fever, had been causing Flowerdew emotional distress. This is further verified by Flowerdew's inclusion of a poem for him into her Poems. She placed "Elegiac Lines, on the death of Charles Frederic Flowerdew, who died November 29th, 1802, aged 21 years" as the last poem in her book. Several of FLower's friends were subscribers to her Poems, although Benjamin and Eliza don't appear on the list.

Interesting to note, Anna Barbauld also wrote a poem about Charles Frederic Flowerdew, and it can be found in her book of poetry released in 1994 that was edited by William McCarthy (Athens: University of Georgia Press).  

 


WorldCat Texts

“Father of mercies, God of love: anthem for harvest” (musical score)

            by E Vine Hall; Alice Flowerdew

“Extra Supplement: Father of Mercies, God of Love” (article)

            by Alice Flowerdew, John E West

Cattle show & fair, Order of Exercises at the Congregational Meeting House, Thursday, October 7, 1852. (print book)

            by Zenas T Haines; Alice Flowerdew


Further Reading/Mentions of Author

Miller, Josiah. Singers and Songs of the Church. London: Spottiswoode And Co., 1869. 327. ebook.

         


This biographical notice prepared by Julia Welch, Georgia Southern University 

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