Winscom Jane Cave ca 17541813

Not much is known of Jane Cave Winscom, other than the biographical information that may be gleaned from her poetry. This makes hers an interesting but frustrating case for feminist critics. Probably born in Wales, she wrote of both her parents, hinting that her beginnings were humble; her father may have practiced Methodism, either personally or also as a clergyman. She probably served private houses or supported herself through teaching. Her poem "Written by Desire of a Lady, on an Angry, Petulant Kitchen-Maid" displays knowledge of servants and the scullery atmosphere, not gained through any privileged position, as her speaker advises a fellow servant:

Good Mistress Dishclout, condescend To hear the counsel of a friend: When next you are disposed to brawl, Pray let the scullery hear it all, And learn to know your fittest place Is with the dishes and the grease.

Another poem indicates Winscom's relocation to Bath and future move to Winchester by November 1779. When she published Poems on Various Subjects, Entertaining, Elegiac, and Religious (1783), she garnered about 2,000 subscribers, an admirable response. The list included some notables, such as Dr. Joseph Warton, who served as headmaster at Winchester College. Critics believe that Warton's subscription indicates Cave may have had some relationship with the school. By the time of the second edition of her collected poems in 1786, she had apparently married an excise officer in Winchester named Winscom. Her collection would be released in a somewhat expanded third edition (1789), and again in a fourth edition (1794). She developed debilitating headaches later in life, described in "Written the First Morning of the Author's Bathing at Teignmouth, for the Head-Ache," when she sought a cure in waters. She published an ode, "The Head-Ache, or an ode to Health," in a Bristol newspaper in May 1793 as a plea for advice as to how to handle her affliction. Her description indicates the headaches may have been related to menstruation, as migraines before, during, and after menses were later associated with the menstrual cycle. She writes in part:

Not one short month for ten revolving years, But pain within my frame its scepter rears! In each successive month full twelve long days And tedious night my sun withdraws his rays! Leaves me in silent anguish on my bed, Afflicting all the members in the head.

other poems suggest that she had at least two children, both boys. An obituary after her 1813 death mentions, according to Roger Lonsdale, her having experienced a "miraculous escape from a watery grave, about two years since," labeling her "an authoress of no mean talents; and her domestic character, both as wife and mother, was exemplary."

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