Augusta Davies Webster
Biography of Augusta Davies Webster
Born in 1837, Webster was a prolific writer in every genre, a self-educated classical scholar, a professional poetry reviewer, an activist, and an educator. She began her literary career as a young girl and had published two volumes of poetry, two well-received translations of Aeschylus and Euripides, and a three-volume novel by the time she became a very active member of the London Suffrage Society in the 1860s. During the 1870s Webster continued to support suffrage for women and the women’s movement in general, as well as liberalism and individualism, in a series of essays that she wrote for the Examiner and later published as A Housewife’s Opinions. Beginning in 1879, she served two terms on the London School Board, with the second term concurrent with her position as one of the main poetry reviewers for the Athenaeum. She consistently published poetry and drama in these years, as well as a children’s novella. Webster was married and had one daughter. In the 1880s she hosted literary salons and was one of the most respected literary, political, and social figures in London until she died of cancer in 1894. Webster disappeared from view immediately after her death, and critics are only now beginning the process of exploring the rich diversity of her work. The recent increased interest in Julia Augusta Webster bodes well for a more complete understanding of the significance of Webster’s work as a writer and professional critic, as well as her effectiveness as an activist and political figure. However, as this bibliographic project demonstrates, relatively few scholars have focused on the work of this woman of significance in the last half of the 19th century.
The only biographically focused work to date is Patricia Rigg’s book. Rigg 2009 makes use of archived letters and family records in the United Kingdom and the United States to construct as comprehensive an account of Webster’s early family connections, marriage, motherhood, activism, and professional reviewing work as archival materials allow.
Augusta Davies Webster's Works:
Blanche Lisle: And Other Poems (1860)
Lilian Gray (1864)
Dramatic Studies (1866)
A Woman Sold and Other Poems (1867)
A Book of Rhyme (1881)
Mother and Daughter (1895)
Translations into verse
Prometheus Bound (1866)
Yu-Pe-Ya's Lute. A Chinese Tale in English Verse (1874)
The Auspicious Day (1874)
In a Day (1882)
The Sentence (1887)
Lesley's Guardians (1864)
A Housewife's Opinions (1878)
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Augusta Davies Webster Poems
Birds Sing I Love You, Love
Birds sing "I love you, love" the whole day through, And not another song can they sing right; But, singing done with, loving's done with quite, The autumn sunders every twittering two.
Poor little diary, with its simple thoughts, its good resolves, its "Studied French an hour," "Read Modern History," "Trimmed up my grey hat," "Darned stockings," "Tatted," "Practised my new song,"
The sun drops luridly into the west; darkness has raised her arms to draw him down before the time, not waiting as of wont till he has come to her behind the sea;
Medea In Athens
Dead is he? Yes, our stranger guest said dead-- said it by noonday, when it seemed a thing most natural and so indifferent as if the tale ran that a while ago
Young Laughters, And My Music!
Young laughters, and my music! Aye till now The voice can reach no blending minors near; 'Tis the bird's trill because the spring is here And spring means trilling on a blossomy bough;
A Song Of A Spring-Time
TOO rash, sweet birds, spring is not spring; Sharp winds are fell in east and north; Late blossoms die for peeping forth; Rains numb, frost
A Soul In Prison
(The Doubter lays aside his book.) "Answered a score of times." Oh, looked for teacher, is this all you will teach me? I in the dark
A Bird And Flower Upon The Tree
A bird and flower upon the tree, Sweet peony and oriole, Each of them a perfect soul,
Day Is Dead, And Let Us Sleep
DAY is dead, and let us sleep, Sleep a while or sleep for aye, 'Twere the best if we unknew
FAREWELL: we two shall still meet day by day, Live side by side; But never more shall heart respond to heart.
Not yet! I thought this time 'twas done at last, the workings perfected, the life in it;
Dear Love, Good-Night
DEAR love, good-night. And, tender sleep ,Seal up her lids like these drowsed flowers, To make day fair when they unclose.
SOFT voices of the woods, that make The summer air a harmony, Winged whispers through the leaves where wake Long wind-wafts dying in a sigh,
Alas, I thought this forest must be true, And would not change because of my changed eyes;
The elm lets fall its leaves before the frost,
The very oak grows shivering and sere,
The trees are barren when the summer's lost:
But one tree keeps its goodness all the year.
Green pine, unchanging as the days go by,
Thou art thyself beneath whatever sky:
My shelter from all winds, my own strong pine,
'Tis spring, 'tis summer, still, while thou art mine.