Anna Letitia Barbauld and Eighteenth-Century Visionary Poetics
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
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When I began writing this book, my aim was to examine three volumes of poetry, each by a separate writer: Anna Letitia Barbauld’s Poems (1773; 1792), Ann Yearsley’s Rural Lyre (1796), and Joanna Baillie’s Metrical Legends (1821). Despite their many differences...
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This project would not have been possible without the interest and assistance of several students, colleagues, editors, and readers, all of whom contributed significantly to my efforts to understand Barbauld’s poetry. Because my interest in Barbauld began...
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It is a critical commonplace that visionary poetry and poetics became dormant and sank into obscurity after the age of Milton and reemerged during the later eighteenth century in the figure of William Blake, whose subversive and transformative engagement...
1 Barbauld’s Poems in Context
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When the radical bookseller Joseph Johnson published the first edition of Anna Letitia Barbauld’s Poems in 1773, at which time Barbauld was thirty years old and writing under her maiden name of Aikin, as she was not yet married, England was still a relatively...
2 Politics, Vision, and Pastoral
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The most distinctive features of Barbauld’s visionary poetics, at least in the early sections of Poems, are her restlessness and uncertainty as she works to construct a meaningful imaginative portrait of human experience. Especially in “Corsica,” the first poem in the volume, she ranges across various poetic interests— especially pastoral...
3 Satire, Antipastoral, and Visionary Poetics
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“Corsica” and “The Invitation” are powerful examples of the difficulty that Barbauld faces in her efforts to imagine a world transformed, oriented on the principles of peace, justice, and liberty. The force of the poems’ resistance to her idealism— particularly...
4 Personal Life and Visionary Poetics
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Barbauld’s cluster of satires and pastorals (or, perhaps more accurately, antipastorals) is followed by several poems that turn ostensibly to even smaller subjects, presumably in an eff ort to ground more securely the human focus of her visionary poetics. These...
5 Reflections on Writing
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In the cluster of poems that follows on “To Wisdom”—“The Origin of Song- Writing,” “Songs,” “Delia,” and “Ovid to His Wife”— Barbauld faces directly the problem of writing in an effort to determine the extent to which she is capable of creating...
6 The Personal and Biblical Principles of Poetic Vision
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The poems beginning with “Origin of Song- Writing” and concluding with “Ovid to His Wife” are among the most difficult and complex in Poems, insofar as they strive to work through many of the thorny issues— pastoral idealism, subjectivity, social engagement, the...
7 God, Vision, and the Political Moment
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The biblical and religious interests of “Hymns” provide the spiritual foundation for the two following long poems, “An Address to the Deity” and “A Summer Evening’s Meditation,” which, in turn, prepare Barbauld’s reader for a return to politics...
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At the conclusion of Visionary Poetics, Joseph Wittreich remarks that “for Blake and for the other Romantics, Milton is a type of the renovator mundi, a liberator rather than an oppressor, who, like other such figures, appears under a number of guises—...
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Page Count: 264
Illustrations: 3 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2012