Mary Chandler’s Description of Bath (1733): A Tradeswoman Poet of the Georgian Urban Renaissance *
Mary Chandler's A Description of Bath in a letter to a friend (1733) is one of the earliest examples of a sustained urban topographical poem by a woman. This chapter provides some biographical, historical, and literary contexts within which we should read Chandler's representation of Bath. Unlike many Bath-inspired poems of the period what Steele pejoratively dubbed, Bath's 'Water Poetry' -Chandler's Description is not merely a jeu-d'esprit by an occasional visitor, but a substantial piece of civic propaganda by a propertied local resident. It was within this potentially hostile critical climate that Chandler, herself a tradeswoman selling fancy trimmings to the beau monde, presumed to publish her Bath poem. Chandler developed an interest in poetry in childhood, but only received a limited home education and to her own frustration she was only able to read the classical poets in translation.