"The Ballads Project." Bodleian Library. Available online.


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BOYD, ELIZABETH (ca. 1727-1745) Not much is known of Elizabeth Boyd's life or death, although many clues have been discovered among her publications. According to a note in one publication, her father apparently served the Stuarts in some manner and enjoyed their favor. Boyd published a novel in 1732, The Happy-Unfortunate; Or, the Female Page, which reappeared in 1737 as The Female Page. She noted in its preface that she wrote and published in order to support her care for her aged mother, who had at one time taken "the Charge of many Children," indicating that Boyd matured in a large family. She mentions John, duke of Argyll, as one who encouraged her to write, and dedications included the countess of Hertford and the earl of Albemarle. The list of about 300 subscriptions sold includes a notable number of aristocrats. Those facts support the belief that her family had royal connections, and she earned enough profit from her novel to allow her to sell stationery goods from a house near Leicester Fields.

Boyd's earliest published poem appears to have been "Variety: A Poem . . . by Louisa" (1727), followed on the king's birthday by Verses (1730) written to celebrate that occasion. Her poem "On the Death of an Infant of Five Days Old, Being a Beautiful but Abortive Birth" appeared in the strangely titled The Humorous Miscellany (1733), a collection containing many works on sobering topics. A later play titled Don Sancho, Or The Student's Whim (1739), while never staged, had a reading at Drury Lane Theatre.

Boyd published additional occasional poems through 1744, and in 1745 she published The Snail: Or The Lady's Lucubrations . . . by Eloisa, the first volume of what she had planned as a periodical. It noted that its publication had been delayed by her "unhappy State of Health." The volume focused on the scandal caused two decades earlier by the duke and duchess of Marl-borough, widely believed to have manipulated Queen Anne to their personal benefit. others had written about the unfortunate relationship, including the early novelist Mary Delariviere Manley in the popular The Secret History of Queen Zarah and the Zarazians (1705), the first roman a clef written in English. Boyd apparently lived near St. James's Church when she published The Snail, the sole volume of her intended series. She may have been unable to continue its publication as a result of poor health.

Deemed a minor poet, Boyd remains of interest because of her obvious determination to write. "On the Death of an Infant," her most easily located work, is significant for a sudden contrast in its final lines between the male and female approaches to grief over a lost baby. That thematic turn elevates the stylistically highly sentimentalized poem.

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