09. The Muse and the Bard of Cumberland: Sue Allan on Susanna Blamire and Robert Anderson

About the Episode

This double-bill episode features Dr Sue Allan, an expert on Cumbria’s folk tradition, talking about two of the most significant dialect poets of Georgian Northern England: Susanna Blamire and Robert Anderson.

Born to a gentry family in 1747 the ‘Muse of Cumberland’ Susanna Blamire wrote neo-classical and dialect verse that provides valuable insight into late eighteenth-century regional life. The English Dialect Dictionary edited by Joseph Wright and published between 1898 and 1905 used many of Blamire’s words as examples of Cumberland dialect. A “bonny and varra lish young lass” (a beautiful and very lively young girl) who enjoyed social events or “merry neets” Blamire probably saw local strollers like Charlotte Lowes perform.

Blamire’s verse circulated in manuscript during her lifetime and was converted into songs that were well-known to the ‘Cumberland bard’ Robert Anderson who has long been considered the standard bearer of Cumberland’s contribution to bardic verse.

Dr Sue Allan was awarded her PhD from Lancaster University in 2017 for her study of Cumbrian folk song and published a biography of Robert Anderson in 2020.

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