Elizabeth Moody

Moody is author of “Anna’s Complaint; Or the Miseries of War; written in the Isle of Thanet, 1794” (full text here).

Some biographical points of note:

  • Elizabeth (1737-1814) was 17 years older than her husband. They married when she was 40 and he was 23.
  • Her husband was an extremely prolific contributor to the Monthly Review
  • Elizabeth was a regular contributor to the St. James Chronicle. She also wrote at least 29 notices of books for the Monthly Review — a very large contribution for a woman writer. She reviewed books written in Italian and French as well as English. Orlando calls the extent of her review work “pioneering for a woman.”
  • Her tone has been described multiple times as “masculine” (Orlando, Mary A. Waters)
  • She published her early poetry anonymously, as she later says, “like the dove which Noah sent out from the ark, reconnoitering the land.”

In the library:

Stainforth collected “Anna’s Complaint,” an anti-war poem published in George Miller’s pamphlet War a System of Madness and Irreligion (1794/6?).

In the poem, Anna mourns that her lover, William, is away from her and at war. He was seduced to join the army “by war’s deceitful charms,” “pomp,” and  “pleasing art.” The narrator shows Anna worrying at home, not knowing if William is dead and wanting him there with her “with shoulders bending o’er the plough.” The narrator also recounts that William died on the battlefield without Anna there to soothe him. The final stanza suggests that William died not just when slain on the battlefield, but earlier, when he was “torn from Anna” by believing in the glory advertised in army propaganda. The ballad form with aabb rhyme, instead of the traditional abcb rhyme, divides the two halves of each stanza and demonstrates the separation, in poetic form, that Anna and William suffer.

This poem is reprinted in a very interesting collection of Moody’s poems called Poetic Trifles (October 1798). Along with another anti-war poem, it opens the collection. Other poems in this collection blend topics of the domestic and the feminine with the political, ranging from light to Juvenalian satire. She jokes that housewife poets must learn blank verse so that they can elevate their writing to address the topic of the war. Her verse also engages Joseph Priestly’s philosophy, Marie Antoinette’s execution, Darwin and the controversial sexing of flower parts, and a cave in which dogs tell their owners when the air is too noxious to breathe (a humorous poem from the perspective of the dog).


Brown, Susan, Patricia Clements, and Isobel Grundy, eds. “Elizabeth Moody” entry: Writing and Life screens within Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Online, 2006. <http://0-orlando.cambridge.org.libraries.colorado.edu/>. 11 August 2014.

Moody, Elizabeth. “Anna’s Complaint; Or the Miseries of War; written in the Isle of Thanet, 1794.” British War Poetry in the Age of Romanticism: 1793-1815. Eds. Betty T. Bennett and Orianne Smith. 2004. Web. Romantic Circles Electronic Editions. 11 August 2014.

You Might Also Like