In 1804, at a time of industrial, political and intellectual ferment, Anna Seward (1742-1809) published the first biography of "Erasmus Darwin" (1731-1802). Darwin, Charles Darwin's grandfather, was one of Britain's foremost physicians, scientists, poets and observers of nature. Anna Seward was a leading poet, critic and commentator. Both flourished in the effervescent cultural landscape of the late-eighteenth century and made Lichfield a provincial centre for intellectual activity. Throughout her biography, Seward describes encounters with influential figures, including members of the Lunar Society, and explores Darwin's scientific and literary creativity. But her biography is more than a commentary on others: it reveals her complex relationship with Darwin, her love of poetry and the natural landscape, and the personality, challenges and aspirations of an intelligent, passionate and independent woman writer of the early Romantic period. Through an introductory essay and comments on the text, the editors provide a framework in which to understand Seward, Darwin and their times.
Philip K. Wilson, Ph.D. is Professor of Medical Humanities at Penn State Hershey College of Medicine, Professor of Science, Technology, and Society at Penn State University Park, and Director of the Doctors Kienle Center for Humanistic Medicine. Elizabeth A. Dolan, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of English and Director of the Health, Medicine and Society Program at Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Malcolm Dick, Ph.D. is Director of the Centre for West Midlands History at the University of Birmingham.