Hannah Morison

Kaye Kossick

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The history of Hannah Morison, one of the many "disappeared" women writers hitherto lost in the field of cultural amnesia, can only be conjectured from her sole volume of verse, Poems on Various Subjects, published in Newry, County Down, in 1817. In her preface, Morison claims to have been "nurtured in the bosom of retirement," and a brief reference to the rustic setting of her childhood school, near a "clacking mill," may indicate some familial connection with the local linen industry, though representations of indigenous weaving skills and domestic labour, except when defamiliarized through displacement into an exotic setting (see "A Tale"), are otherwise elided from Morison's writing. Whether this is symptomatic of genteel fastidiousness or indicative of a social position so liminal and precarious that to disclose her familiarity with labouring-class life would subject it to jeopardy cannot be determined. But the inclusion of translations "from the French" and allusions to Francis Bacon's Atlantis in the volume suggest that Morison had been educated far beyond the "hedge school" scraps commonly doled to the Irish Catholic underclass. Historically marked events, beginning with the death of Robert Burns in 1796, indicate that Morison's collection of sixty seven poems was written over at least twenty years. This prolonged gestation period and the absence of a subscription list make it unlikely that Morison wrote out of financial necessity. Poetic self-figurings as a witness of poverty and a giver of charity, plus her apparent familiarity with members of the professional classes in the Portadown Hunting Club and friendship with Joseph Nicholson, a prominent linen manufacturer from Bessbrook, a country village three miles north of Newry, also add to the sense of Morison's rural milieu and middle-class, Protestant affiliations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIrish Women Writers of the Romantic Period
Place of PublicationStevenage
PublisherAlexander Street Press
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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