Mary Hutton – Poet

Mary Hutton

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Mary Hutton was an English labouring class writer from Yorkshire. Born in Wakefield on 10 July 1794, she moved to Sheffield when young and spent most of her life there. She was the author of three poetry collections, the last of which was a miscellany of prose and verse.

In the preface to her third collection, Mrs Hutton, born Mary Taylor, relates how she was a twin and the only one in a family of twelve children to suffer from scurvy. When her family moved to London, Mary’s health forced her to remain in Wakefield. Some years later, she left for Sheffield and there met and married Michael Hutton, a cutler some twenty-five years older with two children from a previous marriage. Her husband was in poor health and later on found he had been defrauded by the Benefit society to which he had been paying contributions.

Needing to contribute to their finances, Hutton wrote a letter in 1830 to John Holland, a prominent city author, appealing for help in publishing a volume of her poetry. Holland agreed to raise subscriptions on her behalf and records, in the preface he wrote for it, how he decided to meet Mary in person. He found her living in Butcher’s Buildings, Norris Field, “the wife of a pen-knife cutler, whose lot, it seems, had constituted no exception to the occasional want of employment and paucity of income, so common with many of his class.” Titled Sheffield Manor and Other Poems, the bulk of the pieces there are of the descriptive, topographical kind such as Holland himself had composed at his debut. Early publicity emphasised Mary’s status as “wife of a poor pen-knife cutter in Sheffield”

In the 1851 census entry, she is listed as a widow aged 59 and her occupation is given as “Poetess.”  John Holland later recorded that she died in Sheffield’s Shrewsbury Hospital in the spring of 1859.

The poet has now been identified as an important figure in 19th century political writing by Ian Haywood in The Literature of Struggle: An Anthology of Chartist Fiction (1995), in which she is identified as “the only woman author of Chartist Fiction.” More recently, John Goodridge’s Nineteenth-Century English Labouring-Class Poets: 1800–1900 (2005) collected five of Hutton’s poems  and Meagan Timney has explored her radical poetics