Thursday 21 October 2021

'The masculine loco-descriptive tradition'

 I recently bought a modern edition (2010) of the Life of Erasmus Darwin written by the 'Swan of Lichfield', Anna Seward (pronounced, I was surprised to learn, 'See-ward'). Seward has recently attracted the attention of academics, for her sometimes innovative proto-Romantic verse and other writings, for her unconventional (and in modern terms unclassifiable) love life, and for being a respected woman writer in a then very male-dominated literary world. Whether her biography of Darwin is any good I have yet to discover, having only just got through the lengthy Introduction, which, while full of interest, reads rather like a reheated thesis or dissertation. I laughed out loud at a quotation from one Sharon Seltzer, who declares that Seward's poems on the famous early industrial site Coalbrookdale are 'a significant intervention in the masculine loco-descriptive tradition'. A little later, the author of the Introduction describes Seward's literary criticism as 'worthy of our attention because it evokes a deeply relational mode of analytic thought and creative work not always associated with late 18th-century literature'. Deeply relational, eh?
  As for Erasmus Darwin, he remains very present in Lichfield. Yesterday I spotted the most unlikely tribute to the great man and the Lunar Society of which he was a leading light: the Brewhouse and Kitchen pub, which brews its own beers, has a red rye ale (dry, amber aromatic) called Lunartick [sic]. I must try it some time...


  1. In American English, prefixes in "loco" are as likely to indicate madness as place, e.g. loco weed. In that sense, Hunter Thompson might be considered the master of the masculine loco-descriptive tradition.

  2. Yes indeed! Thanks George.