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De Bry Rare Books

The Halsewell Tragedy 1786 - Unpublished Poetry - East Indiaman - 38pp

The Halsewell Tragedy 1786 - Unpublished Poetry - East Indiaman - 38pp

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"These poems were composed and written by my dear lamented grandfather Captain Pierce who lost his life with tow of his daughters and two nieces on board his ship as well as several Passengers and Crew in The Halsewell"

Early 19th Century Manuscript of unwritten poetry written by Sophia Ricketts, Grand Daughter of Captain Richard Pierce who died during the Halsewell Tragedy.

38pp [6 blanks] of unpublished poetry in Good condition. Staining to edges of pages. First page toned with old sellotape mark (removed) Tears and losses to front an back pages. Nice early 19th Century hand. 32 x 20cm approx. Thick paper watermarked with the image of Britannia and the date 1807(?)

The Halsewell was an East Indiaman launched in 1778 under the command of Captain Richard Pierce. On her third voyage, in January 1786, she foundered during a storm on the rocks off the isle of Purbeck with great loss of life, including Captain Pierce, his daughters and his nieces. The Tragedy was well documented at the time and the site was visited by King George III. It was remembered in years to come with the wreck being portrayed by JMW Turner in 1818. Charles Dickens would recount the tragedy in his short story "The Long Voyage" published in 1853, where he recalls the heroic efforts of the Captain to avert disaster.

The manuscript contains the following 11 unpublished poems:

 ‘A Sonnet’, pp. 1-6, 30 verses - Describing a Mariner's longing for home.

‘Parting’, pp. 6-10, 33 verses: - Describing missing family "And is it so, Maria said, Tomorrow must we part?"

‘Reflections at Sun-rise. Written in the N.E. Trade-winds’, pp. 11-12 , 55 lines - Describes the ship gracefully sailing across the Atlantic

‘Reflections at Sun-Setting’, pp. 13-15 , 82 lines

'An Epitaph on a Friend’, pp. 16, 28 lines

‘A Monody’, pp. 17-18 , 43 lines - Describes the loss of a friend

'An Elegiac Poem written in False Bay (South Africa) 1772', pp. 19-25 , 212 lines - 

 ‘Written on board the Asburnham (East Indiaman, Earl of Ashburham, launched 1761) occasioned by an abusive paragraph in the Weekly Chronicle of that Ship in answer to a hint that improper attention was shewn to a Young Lady under the Guardianship of the Author’ pp. 26-28

‘Written at the Top of a hill, In the village of Coldhorne near Bath. (from whence is a beautiful prospect over the adjacent country) where the author went to school' pp. 29-33

‘A Copy of Verses sent to Humphrey Primatt. D.D. with two Java Sparrows.' pp. 34-35 7 verse poem

Humphrey Primatt was a vicar and animal rights pioneer. On p34 is written the note ‘Dr Primatt has just published a treatise on mercy to brutes’. and on p.35. ‘The cruel distinction made by many in disfavour of the blacks was often a subject of his commiseration’

'The following Lines were written on board the Halsewell By a private soldier.' pp. 36-38 ,  67 line poem

The last page contains a pasted on signature ‘Sophia Ricketts’

An important booklet of unpublished poetry describing a well documented late 18th Century Maritime tragedy.

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