Eliza Daye was raised a Methodist in Surrey but later became a Quaker. There is very little known about her life, and at times she has been confused with another Eliza Day (without the ‘e’) who lived in America. She does not seem to have married or kept any journals or letters to and from other known authors. What is known of her comes from her one major work, Poems on Various Subjects (1798), which she had printed for herself. Most of her poems are devotional, but others involve diverse subjects and themes. She uses classical references, folklore, and nature to evoke vivid imagery. Several of her poems resemble Shakespeare, such as the opening poem in her volume, titled “Upon a lady losing a sprig of Myrtle, presented to her by her husband, on the morning of their marriage.” Her longer poem, “The Birth of Genius,” is an allegory of the poet’s process of creation, blending pleasure and practice in a singular poem. The title page to her Poems is highly interesting in its own right: Poems on Various Subjects (Liverpool: Printed by J. M’Creery; And published for the Author, at the Subscription Library, Lancaster; also for Mr. Walmsley and Mr. Holt; for Mr. Jones, Mr. Gore, and Messrs. Wright and Ormandy, Liverpool; and for Mr. Johnson, St. Paul’s Church Yard, London, 1798. Besides its suggestion of the importance of circulating libraries to women writers at that time, it also demonstrates a wider than normal breadth to such a publication at that time (printers and sellers in multiple locations other than London). The presence of Joseph Johnson also is worth noting, for it suggests she may have had connections beyond her Quaker friends, including many among the Unitarians. Her subscription list also reflects the geographical and religious breadth of her publication, with names listed from 45 locations in England, Scotland, and Ireland, including a number of Unitarian ministers and laypersons, such as Andrew Kippis, Thomas Astley, Thomas Barnes, Joseph Yates, James Clegg, Dr. James Currie, and William Roscoe, as well as Mrs. Jane Adams Houseman of Lancaster (see entry on Houseman on this site).
Poems on Various Subjects. Liverpool: printed by J. M’Creery, published for the author, at the Subscription Library, Lancaster, 1798.
This volume has 8 pages of subscribers’ names. In the printing information on the title page, after it says that it was printed for the author, it also list that it was printed for the following: Mr Walmsley and Mr. Holt; for Mr. Jones, Mr. Gore, and Messrs. Wright and Ormandy, Liverpool; and for Mr. Johnson, St. Paul’s Church Yard, London. It is described as costing “Price Seven Shillings in Boards; Hot-pressed, Seven and Six-pence.” She used subscribers that were guaranteed purchasers of her book to pay for the printing of it. Being her own publisher probably gave her a sense of freedom in what she wrote and included in the book.
Poems was reprinted by Kessenger Legacy Reprints in 2010. It is a facsimile reprint of the original and contains the imperfections of the originally published text’s pages from which it was copied.
Annotated Selections / Mentions of Author
1. Pascoe, Judith. Romantic Theatricality: Gender, Poetry, and Spectatorship. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1997. 111-4.
In the chapter titled “Embodying Marie Antionette,” Pascoe discusses the language of theatre that exists in literature, how it can be read as stage directions, and the vivid imagery involved in creating a scene with words. She mentions a poem about Marie Antoinete, and Pascoe’s compliments the author’s “extraordinarily theatrical figure whose utterances participate in the deictic aspect of the entire poem” (111). The poem is titled “Evening,” and has the subtitle “Written on reading the melancholy Seperation of the Dauphin from the Queen of France.” The only note on the poem’s author is that it was reportedly penned by “Eliza.” The footnote on the page offers explanation that the poem was originally published in the Gentleman’s Magazine of November 1793 and is reprinted in BWP where Betty Bennet suggests that “Eliza” may be Eliza Daye. However, another candidate, Eliza Ryves, is suggested as the better candidate by Pascoe.
2. Romanticism and Women Poets: Opening the Doors of Reception. eds. Stephen C. Behrendt and Harriet Kramer Linkin. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1999. 1.
The editors mention Eliza’s first and last name on page 1, first page of the “Introduction: Recovering Romanticism and Women Poets” simply to say that few people know of her. There is a list of names that follow her , which includes: Anne Candler, Charlotte Richardson, Anne Batten Cristall, Anna Maria Smallpiece, Caroline Norton, and Isabella Lickbarrow.
3. Catalogue of the Varied and Valuable Historical, Poetical, Theological, and Miscellaneous Library of the Late Venerated Poet-Laureate, William Wordsworth, Esquire, D.C.L., Last, Not Least, of the Line of Lake Minstrels. ed. John Burton. Cannon-Street, Preston: Chas. Ambler, 1859.
This shows on page 49, listing number 548, that her volume of poems published in 1798 was owned by William Wordsworth and was in was in his private library collection of more than 3,000 books at Rydal Mount, near Ambleside, Westmoreland. The listing was part of a lot for the third day’s sale on Thursday, July 21, 1859, at 11:00 A.M. that was auctioned off by John Burton, who assembled the catalogue.
4. The Monthly Review; or Literary Journal, Enlarged. London: Printed for R. Griffiths, 1798. 105.
A review on Eliza’s Poems appears as “Art.36” on page 105 of the journal. The reviewer simply states: “The moral and religious tendency of these poems we are ready to acknowledge in the fullest extent,—and sorry are we that we cannot highly compliment the writer on her poetical talents.” After this statement, an excerpt of a poem is introduced and reprinted. It is unclear why no more is said, or why she could not be complimented on her talents. It is an intriguing comment.
This page assisted by Julia Welch, Georgia Southern University