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British Women Poets and the Romantic Writing Community

Stephen C. Behrendt

Publication Year: 2009

This compelling study recovers the lost lives and poems of British women poets of the Romantic era. Stephen C. Behrendt reveals the range and diversity of their writings, offering new perspectives on the work of dozens of women whose poetry has long been ignored or marginalized in traditional literary history. British Romanticism was once thought of as a cultural movement defined by a small group of male poets. This book grants women poets their proper place in the literary tradition of the time. Behrendt first approaches the subject thematically, exploring the ways in which the poems addressed both public concerns and private experiences. He next examines the use of particular genres, including the sonnet and various other long and short forms. In the concluding chapters, Behrendt explores the impact of national identity, providing the first extensive study of Romantic-era poetry by women from Scotland and Ireland. In recovering the lives and work of these women, Behrendt reveals their active participation within the rich cultural community of writers and readers throughout the British Isles. This study will be a key resource for scholars, teachers, and students in British literary studies, women’s studies, and cultural history.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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p. vii

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pp. ix-x

A book like this one evolves over many years, and it accumulates many debts along the way. I have long enjoyed conversations in person and in correspondence with colleagues engaged in the recovery and reassessment of Romantic-era writers, both women and men....

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A Note on Texts

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pp. xi-xii

As more and more of the literary work of British women from the Romantic era has been published in modern editions, often with scholarly apparatus, and as these writers have also begun to appear in anthologies intended especially for college and university students, the world has gradually begun to be reacquainted with writers and texts that had long been neglected or marginalized for a whole host of reasons. ...

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pp. 1-36

At the beginning of A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens insists that we bear in mind that Jacob Marley’s death is a fact. “There is no doubt that Marley was dead,” the narrator tells us. “This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of this story” (39). Any effective tale relies on the ability of its hearer—and its teller—to distinguish between what is and what merely seems to be: Ebenezer ...

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1 Women Writers, Radical Rhetoric, and the Public

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pp. 37-77

When it appeared in 1979, the volume of the Biographical Dictionary of Modern British Radicals that encompassed the Romantic period listed 214 figures representing various occupations and avocations. Of these only four—Mary Hays, Catherine Macaulay, Helen Maria Williams, and Mary Wollstonecraft—were women, and they made up a mostly eighteenth-century coterie. Macaulay had died already in ...

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2 Women Poets during the War Years

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pp. 78-114

From 1 February 1793 through 18 June 1815, Britain was almost continually at war, except for the brief period from 25 March 1802 to 18 May 1803 that marked the ill-fated Peace of Amiens. The rest of these twenty-two-plus years witnessed a succession of variously configured coalitions ranged first against Revolutionary France and subsequently against Napoleon’s expanding empire. By 1811, as noted in chapter ...

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3 Women and the Sonnet

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pp. 115-151

The author is Mary Ann Browne, who published five volumes under this name and another under her married name, Gray. A prolific producer of both sacred and secular verse, despite her modest financial circumstances, Browne is best remembered as hymn writer.1 Her poetry traces a remarkable spiritual relationship with the natural world, which she valued almost as much as the scriptures as a guide for mediating ...

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4 Experimenting with Genre

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pp. 152-200

In chapter 3 I examined how Romantic-era British women poets worked with a single poetic genre, the sonnet, and I approached that genre “vertically,” looking down through the interrelated layers of texts to explore the intertextual conversation among the poets that they reveal. In this chapter, by contrast, I take more of a horizontal approach to survey a broader selection of poets and genres. With each of ...

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5 Scottish Women Poets

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pp. 201-243

When we come to the poetry of Scotland—and that of Ireland, which is the subject of the next chapter—the inescapable realities of political and cultural history intersect with those of literary history. For while the literary history of England has customarily been sketched in relatively straightforward lines in terms of a dominant “English” national culture, that of Scotland (and of Ireland, and to some extent ...

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6 Irish Women Poets

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pp. 244-290

Much of what I observed in chapter 5 about the circumstances surrounding the lives, works, and reputations of Scottish women poets is relevant also to their Irish contemporaries. But there are important differences, too, that stem not only from geographical and cultural otherness but also from deeply rooted and passionately held convictions about religion and national identity. Ireland is, after all, an island ...

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pp. 291-302

More than a decade ago, Theresa M. Kelley and Paula R. Feldman concluded their introductory essay to their groundbreaking collection of essays on Romantic-era women’s writing with the statement that “on every level, much remains to be done to specify the shape of Romantic women’s careers and to situate those careers in something like a general (or particulate) field theory of Romanticism, defined by ...


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pp. 303-319


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pp. 321-339


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pp. 341-349

E-ISBN-13: 9780801895081
E-ISBN-10: 0801895081
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801890543
Print-ISBN-10: 0801890543

Page Count: 368
Publication Year: 2009

OCLC Number: 593232035
MUSE Marc Record: Download for British Women Poets and the Romantic Writing Community

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Subject Headings

  • Romanticism -- Great Britain.
  • English poetry -- 19th century -- History and criticism.
  • Women and literature -- Great Britain -- History -- 18th century.
  • English poetry -- Women authors -- History and criticism.
  • Women and literature -- Great Britain -- History -- 19th century.
  • English poetry -- 18th century -- History and criticism.
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