Graeme Park as the Site of Personal Enlightenment Graeme Park - Horsham Plantation, Horsham Township Pennsylvania

In addition to the quasi-public function of Graeme Park as site of a popular intellectual salon and a working agricultural enterprise, Fergusson also viewed the estate as private space for her own personal enlightenment. Recollections of Fergusson's private world at Graeme Park-as expressed by those who were part of Graeme Park's living culture-began during her own lifetime and continued into the twentieth century. An early memory of the private relationship between Fergusson and the estate was expressed in a 1775 letter to her from John Young: "You have all the advantages that any poet can wish for; for the season of poetry is fast approaching, and everything about you must contribute to inspire it: so that you have nothing to do but to invoke the muses and begin (to) sing. As for the scene I'm sure Graeme Park may vie with Arcadia; for poetry many easily convert Neshaminy into Helcion, the Meadows into Tempe, & the N. Park into Parnassus..."

Dr. Benjamin Rush's 1809 eulogy for Fergusson also depicted Graeme Park as a site of Fergusson's intellectual growth. Rush described Graeme Park as a place that "afforded her the most delightful opportunities for study, meditation, rural walks, and pleasures, and, above all, for cultivating a talent for poetry." Fergusson's belief that the natural landscape was the ideal setting for enlightened thought had a profound effect upon the memory of those who were culturally connected to Graeme Park. Margaret Strawbridge, the last person to privately own Graeme Park, recalled in 1989 that "in my day, we only knew that Lady Elizabeth Fergusson was the last one to live in the old house," and that "she sat under that catalpa tree,... The fact that Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson was remembered as a fixture in the landscape almost two-hundred years after her death reveals the heavy imprint that Fergusson's theory of the natural landscape as a virtuous space left on the culture of memory surrounding Graeme Park.

Although some of her poetry was intended for public reception, the reallife experiences upon which she drew her context were intensely personal. As early as the 1750s, Fergusson transformed the rural landscape of Graeme Park into her own personal classroom. The garden as an environment for learning was undoubtedly a notion discovered within her close reading of the classics. Throughout her writings, Fergusson adopted the pastoral allusions of classical authors and turned the meadows and streams of eastern Pennsylvania into "Parnassus," "Tempe," and "Helcion." This use of pastoral metaphor applied to actual landscapes bears the particular influential stamp of the Roman author Virgil; Virgil's The Art of Husbandry appears in the 1778 estate inventory. According to the scholar David Shields, "Virgilian georic" became vastly popular in eighteenth-century America; as a literary device, "it portrayed American landscape as temporal, dynamic, vital, wearing several aspects in an unsteady progress from wilderness to cultivation." In a poem entitled "The Invitation," Fergusson reflects in a Virgilian mode: "the town in all its sprightly charms was not ordained for me more lasting happiness is found beneath a spreading tree here sweet symphony provides and glads the virtuous heart and rural elegance all around does natures toys impart... .Each shrub conveys some virtuous truth and earthly bliss defines..."

For Fergusson, Graeme Park was a material place of classical and contemporary virtue where she attempted to reconcile the dialectic of creation between nature and man. Fergusson believed that nature, although violent at times, was based on reason and that it was by constitution, virtuous. Thus, humans could achieve the same virtuous characteristics by living in and learning from nature. In both "Ode to Summer" and "Ode to Autumn," Fergusson described how each season created a new physical environment that offered a unique setting for learning: "Come, Summer, offspring of the sun! Descend from yonder turftop'd hill! Soft as when falling waters run Adown the pure, meandering rill, Rich as the noon of manhood's prime' Mild as the breath of May, in gales Luxuriant as when infant Time First play'd in young Arcadian vales! O place me in some moss-grown cave, Where oozing, creeping waters flow! There may their humid windings lave In pensive murmurs soft and slow. These holy haunts my soul shall sooth; The 'still small voice of heaven is here;' That voice shall passion's throbbing smooth And raise the heart delighting tear.

See bounteous Autumn pours his goods In rich profusion round! What various tinges dye the woods! What plenty decks the ground! The dulcet apple's sprightly juice, The purple laden's vine, With joint consent their wealth produce, In crowning clusters twine. The bursting barns with Ceres' grains, Unlock their golden stores, Reaped from the mellow, fertile plains, Where earth her treasure pours. Each favor sent is but a hint To raise the sluggish mind; Since heaven does not its bounties stint, Shall mortals prove unkind?"

In her 1769 poem entitled "Content in a Cottage," Fergusson described the intellectual superiority that "her humble cottage" in the "vernal woods" offered, as opposed to city life where "virtue is lost in the words of learned men.": "The scenes of rural bliss an humble poet sings the Shepard happy wish that mild contentment brings our vernal woods and groves a source of pleasure yield while soft delightful loves enliven every field Tho science does not reign beneath the rustic bower the sheperd simple strain beguiles the gliding hour the little good for boast is daily practiced then and virtue is not lost in words by learned men. Health virtue and content the triple union join and smile with fond consent a lovely wreath to by them the garland's plac'd upon the rural shed tho humble cottage graced with what from courts "

Fergusson constructed her private world at Graeme Park as an "enchanted ground" where nature's virtue could be both an inspiration for personal enlightenment and as an appropriate subject for her poetry. Through imbedding intense meaning into the landscape and life of Graeme Park, Fergusson reveals the life encompassing capacity of her personal ideologies. Finally, Fergusson clearly enjoyed the relaxation and healthfulness offered by the rural "bower" of Graeme Park and used words like "contentment," "peace," and "cheerfulness," to describe her time spent in the estate's natural landscape.

Although Fergusson was committed to virtue, reason, and personal sovereignty, her life was not without contradictions. The most obvious contradiction was that she owned slaves. Slavery had always had a presence at Graeme Park beginning with Governor Keith, who at one time kept thirteen slaves there. It appears that Fergusson inherited her slaves as opposed to buying them, and by 1777, there was only one slave listed in the tax books. Some believe that it was Dr. Benjamin Rush, an abolitionist in the latter part of his life, who encouraged Fergusson to free her slaves.

Another inconsistency in Fergusson's life was her being labeled a traitor to the American cause in the most republican of all events-the American Revolution. From the time of her birth, Fergusson allied herself with those would become leaders during the Revolutionary decades. In fact, at the moment of the passage of the American Stamp Act she was told by her chaperon in England, "Betsy, you were yesterday made a slave of." At least two members of her salon, Dr. Benjamin Rush and Francis Hopkinson, both signed the Declaration of Independence and served in the Continental Congress.

In 1772, Elizabeth married Henry Hugh Fergusson after which he became active in public life in the vicinity of Graeme Park. He returned to England in 1775 as a show of loyalty for the king and only returned to the region after the British took Philadelphia in September 1777. Elizabeth received passes from the Americans to visit her husband and "through him she became involved in some questionable affairs, most notably the surreptitious peace proposal of Reverend Jacob Duche...which Elizabeth carried to the American forces." These "un-republican" activities and her loyalist husband's permanent departure for England when the Americans retook Philadelphia tarnished Fergusson's reputation and threatened her economic well-being; ultimately, she lost most of the family furnishings, fortune, and quite nearly Graeme Park. If not for her influential friends who attested to her commitment to the ideology of the American Revolution-as well as the legal situation whereby the estate of Graeme Park was willed to her, she had had no children, and that her husband was not an "American" at the time of the Declaration of Independence-she would have experienced full financial ruin.