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Romanticism and Women Poets

Romanticism and Women Poets: Opening the Doors of Reception

Harriet Kramer Linkin
Stephen C. Behrendt
Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Romanticism and Women Poets
    Book Description:

    One of the most exciting developments in Romantic studies in the past decade has been the rediscovery and repositioning of women poets as vital and influential members of the Romantic literary community. This is the first volume to focus on women poets of this era and to consider how their historical reception challenges current conceptions of Romanticism. With a broad, revisionist view, the essays examine the poetry these women produced, what the poets thought about themselves and their place in the contemporary literary scene, and what the recovery of their works says about current and past theoretical frameworks.

    The contributors focus their attention on such poets as Felicia Hemans, Letitia Elizabeth Landon, Charlotte Smith, Anna Barbauld, Mary Lamb, and Fanny Kemble and argue for a significant rethinking of Romanticism as an intellectual and cultural phenomenon. Grounding their consideration of the poets in cultural, social, intellectual, and aesthetic concerns, the authors contest the received wisdom about Romantic poetry, its authors, its themes, and its audiences. Some of the essays examine the ways in which many of the poets sought to establish stable positions and identities for themselves, while others address the changing nature over time of the reputations of these women poets.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5703-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Introduction: Recovering Romanticism and Women Poets
    (pp. 1-12)
    Harriet Kramer Linkin and Stephen C. Behrendt

    Ten years ago this would have been a very different introduction. Anna Letitia Barbauld, Charlotte Smith, Mary Tighe, Amelia Opie, Mary Lamb, Fanny Kemble, Caroline Bowles Southey, Felicia Hemans, Letitia Elizabeth Landon: many of these names—and others as well—are now familiar to us. Ten years ago they were new to many, even among Romanticists. All this has changed. Today it is almost a truism that the Romantic literary community—and the subset of Romantic poets in particular—was populated by active and widely known women and men alike; ten years ago that too was a relatively novel idea....

  6. Prologue

    • Endurance and Forgetting: What the Evidence Suggests
      (pp. 15-22)
      Paula R. Feldman

      I hold in my hands two books published in the Oxford Editions of Standard Authors series from the early decades of the twentieth century. They are nearly identical in physical appearance—octavo volumes, sturdy linen bindings, each in a tastefully muted color, a small abstract gilt ornament on the front cover and simple gilt lettering at the top of the backstrip naming the contents. “Oxford” appears conspicuously at the base of the spine of both books; in fact, both were produced by the official printer to Oxford University and both could be procured in more expensive leather bindings, but in...

  7. Part One: Questioning Reception

    • The Gap That Is Not a Gap: British Poetry by Women, 1802–1812
      (pp. 25-45)
      Stephen C. Behrendt

      Should we have been surprised? Probably not, but the fallacy propagated by much of twentieth-century literary history when it comes to British Romantic writing was neither exposed nor punctured without considerable rethinking. As we are graphically reminded by J.R. dej. Jackson’s remarkable bibliography of poetry by women in the years spanning what we customarily think of as an expanded “Romantic period” (1770-1835), what orthodox masculinist literary history used to regard as a considerable hiatus in British poetry during the last three decades of the eighteenth century was no fallow field at all. Rather it was an enlarged site of literary...

    • The Subject of Violence: Mary Lamb, Femme Fatale
      (pp. 46-70)
      Adriana Craciun

      Mary Lamb’s career as a writer may not have been possible had she not murdered her mother in 1796.¹ This possibility presents an intriguing problem for any gender-complementary model of writing, and of Romantic period writing in particular, that would align violence and mastery exclusively with masculinity. Gender-complementary models of Romanticism such as Margaret Homans’s inWomen Writers and Poetic IdentityandBearing the Wordand Anne Mellor’s inRomanticism and Genderdifferentiate between women’s uses of language and men’s and in many respects offer a welcome correction to earlier ungendered (read androcentric) comprehensive models of Romanticism and poetic identity.²...

    • “Tales of Truth?”: Amelia Opie’s Antislavery Poetics
      (pp. 71-98)
      Roxanne Eberle

      Even as a young woman, Amelia Alderson Opie (1769-1853), daughter of a well-to-do Presbyterian doctor and an Anglo-Indian mother, had strong connections to the organized antislavery movement in England. In an autobiographical fragment written late in life, Opie attributes her “early and ever-increasing zeal in the cause of emancipation” to a youthful awareness of “the sad tale of negro wrongs and negro slavery.”¹ Indeed, in order to fully understand Opie’s antislavery poetics, it is important to note her lifelong association with abolitionist activism. Adolescent friendships with Norwich Quakers, most notably John Joseph Gurney and his sister, Elizabeth Fry, were forged...

  8. Part Two: Anticipating Reception

    • “Dost thou not know my voice?”: Charlotte Smith and the Lyric’s Audience
      (pp. 101-124)
      Sarah M. Zimmerman

      Two poems addressed to Charlotte Smith appear in the August 1786 edition of theEuropean Magazine, one submitted by a “constant Reader.” The poems respond to the author ofElegiac Sonnets, a collection that had been “universally admired” (in Anna Letitia Barbauld’s words) when it appeared two years earlier.¹ One of the poems, a twelve-line sonnet, begins by admitting that propriety recommends against the intensely autobiographical quality of Smith’s lyric poems: “’Tis said, and I myself have so believ’d / ‘Fiction’s the properest field for Poesy.’” Yet it is the quality protested that arouses a response:

      For sure than thine...

    • “Be Good!”: Acting, Reader’s Theater, and Oratory in Frances Anne Kemble’s Writing
      (pp. 125-143)
      Catherine B. Burroughs

      Even though she is better known to late-twentieth-century readers as an actress and a diarist, Frances Anne Kemble is an important figure for considering how female poets sometimes drew upon the cultural position of London actresses to discuss women, gender, and British social theater during the transitional period called late Romantic or early Victorian.¹ Because Kemble’s earliest poems date from 1825—first composed at sixteen, when as yet she felt no pressure to join the acting profession that was her legacy—a reading of the lyrics she composed between her teen years and mature adulthood can help us appreciate the...

    • Recuperating Romanticism in Mary Tighe’s Psyche
      (pp. 144-162)
      Harriet Kramer Linkin

      That Mary Tighe still requires reclamation at this stage of our recovery of the literature produced by women during the British Romantic period seems surprising, given the general acclamation she received for her magnificent long poemPsyche; or, The Legend of Love.¹ Although there is considerably more to know about Tighe than her authorship ofPsyche, her reputation rests on this singular achievement, which was celebrated by its first reviewers as a poem of “extraordinary merits” (theEclectic Review), cited for elegant design, exquisite telling, fine feeling, superior style, excellent versification, intellectual richness, and superb execution in theQuarterly Review,...

  9. Part Three: Reconstructing Reception

    • A “High-Minded Christian Lady”: The Posthumous Reception of Anna Letitia Barbauld
      (pp. 165-191)
      William McCarthy

      When Anna Letitia Barbauld died, obituaries competed in paying tribute to her. In theNewcastle MagazineWilliam Turner called her “unquestionably the first [i.e., best] of our female poets, and one of the most eloquent and powerful of our prose writers.” “Her various publications,” theChristian Reformeragreed, “have gained for her a lasting name amongst the best English writers.” A memoir of Barbauld in theImperial Magazinedelivered the grandest pronouncement: “[S]o long as letters shall be cultivated in Britain, or wherever the English language shall be known, so long will the name of this lady be respected.”¹


    • “Burst Are the Prison Bars”: Caroline Bowles Southey and the Vicissitudes of Poetic Reputation
      (pp. 192-213)
      Kathleen Hickok

      From her earliest publication, Caroline Bowles (1786-1854) was connected, for better or worse, with Robert Southey (1774-1843), poet laureate of England from 1813 until his death. Southey’s effect on Caroline Bowles’s poetry, and the cultural influence he exerted on her behalf, culminated with their marriage in 1839, a year and a half after his first wife died. Yet even though Southey’s advice and patronage were of enormous benefit to Caroline Bowles during her lifetime, ultimately her association with him proved disastrous for her poetic reputation. When Robert Southey was consigned to critical oblivion after his death, his widow’s critical reputation...

    • Felicia Hemans and the Revolving Doors of Reception
      (pp. 214-241)
      Susan Wolfson

      The 1993 bicentennial of Felicia Hemans’s birth passed without the parade of conferences, exhibits, special issues of journals, and collections of retrospective and prospective essays that have marked and will continue to mark other Romantic-era bicentennials of the 1980s and 1990s. This is partly because Hemans, one of the most prolific, popular poets of her day, in both England and America, did not come back into view until about ten years ago, and publications reflecting this attention, with a couple of prescient exceptions (notably, Marlon Ross and Norma Clarke), were just getting drafted in 1993.¹ The current revival of interest...

    • Receiving the Legend, Rethinking the Writer: Letitia Landon and the Poetess Tradition
      (pp. 242-259)
      Tricia Lootens

      What happens if one sets out to read Letitia Elizabeth Landon as something other than a poet of ideal femininity or a primary source of the poetess tradition? At first, such a project may seem perverse: for it is as a feminine poet that L.E.L. has been rescued from near oblivion. Read as “a woman poet who situated her self and her work whollywithinthe Burkean-Rousseauian categories of the beautiful and the domestic” and as a writer who “accepted and reflected in her work the dominant views concerning how, what and why a woman wrote,” Landon has opened up...

  10. Works Cited
    (pp. 260-284)
  11. Contributors
    (pp. 285-286)
  12. Index
    (pp. 287-296)