Visiting the Country House: Generic Innovation in Mary Leapor’s “Crumble-Hall”

Sharon Young, University of Worcester
Vol. 34, No. 1 (Spring 2015), 51-64

Many studies of Mary Leapor’s poetry focus on her gender and laboring-class origins to frame their analysis, and while this article does not seek to challenge these readings, it will contend that this emphasis on biographical contexts does not adequately account for Leapor as a poet. Instead, this article will argue for a closer examination of Leapor’s engagement with genre to reveal her response to contexts beyond her immediate circumstances. To illustrate this, the article will reconsider “Crumble-Hall” (1751), one of Leapor’s best-known poems. The poem not only demonstrates Leapor’s understanding of gender and class but also two broader, hitherto largely ignored cultural contexts, which are revealed through Leapor’s use of the country house genre: the fashion for collecting curios, art, and furniture and the related phenomena of tourism. “Crumble-Hall” is often regarded as a late and rather anomalous example of the country house poem; however, through this reading, it may be seen as belonging to a wider body of country house poetry, which extended into the mid-eighteenth century and increasingly included the house as an integral part of its discussion. Reading Leapor’s poem with a focus on genre also expands our critical understanding of mid-eighteenth-century women’s poetry and poetic practices more generally.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]