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Politics and Poetry: Not s o Separate Spheres (Voice of the Minority Muse) by Denice N. Traina A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requir ements for the degree of Master of Arts Department of English College of Arts and Science s University of South Florida Major Professor: Laura Runge, Ph.D. Regina Hewitt, Ph.D. Sara M. Deats, Ph. D. Date of Approval: June 2, 2010 Keywords: 18th century, Britain, history, religion, women Copyright 2010 Denice N. Traina
Ded ication : It is an honor to dedicate this thesis to my husband Jeff and our children, Catherine, Madison, and Luke ; each o f you is a blessing from God, and so is the accomplishment of this degree. I dedicate this work to each of you and to the One who led us to its completion. Jeff, thank you for your support as my husband and b est friend ; your sense of humor and adventure gave this journey much of its joy. To our daughters and son, thank you fo r your patience, cooperation, and company throughout this end eavor
Acknowledgement s : I am grateful to my thesis director, Dr. Laura Runge, whose guidance and support has been a precious gift. I extend heartfelt thanks to my thesis committee members, Dr. Regina Hewitt and Dr. Sara M. Deats for you r insights and feedback I appreciate the English Department's administrative assistance the opportunity for collaboration wit h my colleagues, and the help of the University of South Florida librarians. To my amazing family and friends, I cannot t hank you enough for the help you provided through meals, prayers, childcare, company, encouragement, laughter, and listening.
i Table of Contents : Abstract ii Introduction 1 Aphra Behn 14 Anna Letitia Barbauld 23 Conclusion .37 Lit .. 40 About the Author
ii Politics and Poetry: Not so Separate Spheres (Voice of the Minority Muse) Denice N. Traina Abstract : This thesis contributes to continuing assessments of women writers and their political activities during the long eighteenth century. Analyzing works by Aphra Behn, Hannah More, and Anna Letitia Barbauld I assert that these writers projected their voices o nto public affairs and I explore their treatment of poetic forms. T hrough writing, they clai med equality with fellow authors and participated as equals beside the period's political leaders d ebating about and commenting upon a wide array of concerns like the Glorious Revolution the abolition of the slave trade, British military expansion and religious and political liberties This thesis arg ues that Behn, More, and Barbauld spoke as muses for the minority causes of their historical mom ent; their political poetic participation further blurs the distinction between once held perceptions of the Habermasian public sphere.
1 Introduction : Jurgen Habermas's The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere centers on theories of class structure and pub lic discourse related to the public sphere in Engl and between 1780 and 1830 to men of property" (Mellor 2). In Mother s of the Na tion Anne K. Mel lor challenges this "conceptual limitation as historically in accurate asserting that d uring the long eighteenth century "women participated fully in the public sphere as Hab ermas defined it" (2). Habermas's intricate theory w as first published in Germa n ( 1962 ) and then translated into English ( 1989 ) ; as his work 's impact spread, s cholars began question ing his focus upon the i nfluence of land owning males and critics expanded their investigation to include women's literary works. In Justic e Interruptus Nancy Fraser analyzes Habermas's premises regarding the public sphere. 1 Fraser and Mellor's inquiries into the Habermasian hypothesis of the public rea lm inspired my argument, and Fraser synopsizes the Public Sphere as follows: It designates a theater i n modern societies in which political participation is enacted through the medium of talk. It is a space in which citizens deliberate about their common affairs, and hence an institutionalized arena of 1 Fraser encapsulates Habermas' theory to develop her own argument in Justice Interruptus ; her synopsis o f his intricate concepts is useful to situating my thesis given the space allotted here.
2 discursive interaction. This arena is conceptually d ifferent from the state; it is a site for the production and circulation of discourses that can be critical of the state. ( 70) Scholarship on eighteenth century women's writing has flourished particularly in the last few de c a des bu t the complexity of the period's public and private spheres continues to be uncloaked ; therefore we continue to analyze this body of female authorship T his discovery contributes to our ong oing understanding of gender class, politics and authorial purpose Women w riters used poetry to be critical of the state and this mode of communication was particularly effective for females who held nonconformist views. Aphra Behn, Hannah More, and Anna Letitia Barbauld spoke out on civic matters through poetry and this activity itself is important f rom a feminist standpoint; they c hallenged the ir time's constructed social restrictions based upon gender, class, and religion; reading their poems side by side will illuminate this point. V oicing minority opinions they confronted positions taken by Britain's government led by representative majority rule (theoretically anyway) 2 Women' s poetry should be considered as a form of parliamentary speech and for the writer s I examine, I assert that they used this unofficial platf orm to voice dissenting views on state matters. Females, a s a group, were legislated into silen ce since 2 The notion that Britain was governed according to majority rule is refuted by Barbauld in her sermon "Sins of the Government, Sins of the Nation; or, a Discourse for the Fast, Ap pointed on April 19, 1793. By a Volunteer" (McCarthy and Kraft 297). I employ the term "political minority" to refer to those who possessed less power, although they were not necessarily less in number.
3 Parliament denied women (age 30 and older ) the right to vote until 1918; it did not equalize voting rights for women 18 years of age until 19 28, nor were they permitted to be heard in the House of Commons or the House of Lords whether they agreed or disagreed with their policies. The legislated silencing of women does not imply their passive acceptance of marginalization; they spoke through the medium of pr int to approve or dispute policy. Female authored works could be personal, private actions kept within coteries or passed am ong more intimate circles, but these pieces were also public allowing the group to act as agents on the governmental stage. 3 The unique space in history of the eighteenth century afforded British female poets the opportunity to create a political voice that had not been possible before. 4 Variou s coincident historical events created a shift which was conduc ive for women's autho rship, opening opportunities for publication and some writers intervened with pow er distinctive to the poetic genre. "The female poet could and did lay claim to a moral and literary author ity equal to -or greater than --that of those male poets who work ed within the neoclassical literary tradition that looked to the battlefields of the Iliad 3 Agent: 2. He who operates in a partic ular direction, who produces an effect. Of things: The efficient cause. 1656 tr. Hobbes's Elem. Philos. (1839) 131 The power of the agent is the same thing with the efficient cause. 1699 BENTLEY Phalaris 155 When the Samians invaded Zancle, a great Agent in that affair was Hippocrates. 1719 DE F OE Crusoe 31, I was still to be the wilful Agent of all my own miseries"(OED). Agency: 4. Comm. The office or function of an agent or factor. a 1745 SWIFT (J.) Content to live cheap in a worse country, rather than be at the charge of exchange and agencies (OED). 4 Voice: "3 b. Originally: a right to vote. In later use also: a right or power to take part in the control or management of something; a rig ht to express a preference or opinion, a say. Chiefly in to have a voice in Cf. sense 10b. (OED).10 b. Originally: the right or privilege of speaking or voting in a legislative assembly. More generally: the right or privilege of exercising control or influ ence over something; influence, sway. Chiefly in to have (also bear ) voic e in Cf. sense 3b." (OED).
4 or the Aeneid for inspiration, that produced an ideology that was inherently competitive and self aggrandizing, and that frequently sacrificed Christian virtue to na tional conquest or personal glory" (Mellor 72). The woman poet aligned herself with "Christ and his martyrs," and she equated "virtue with moral rectitude, a refusal to compromise, the willingness to suffer for one's beliefs, personal sacrifice, and compa ssion for others," but moreover this virtuous power corresponded to "spiritual liberty and peaceful co existe nce" (Mellor 72 ). At home and abroad, Britain faced the spirit of revolution, religious denominations developed philosophies evolved and the mi ddle class was on the rise; places of discourse such as coffee houses as well as the increase of print culture aided female publication. B ooks were costly ; therefore people often share d the published works they owned and Paula Backscheider explains, "Re citation and reading aloud became cultivated social skills" ( Eighteenth Century Women Poets 11). Genres such as novels, periodicals, and various poetic forms were heard and enjoyed as audible communication I will focus my argument on poetry that addres ses socio political issues, because through their verse, women gave oral expression to opinions suppressed by the male upper class ruled hegemony Aphra Behn precedes Hannah More and Anna Letitia Barbauld, and she prepared the way for their minority poet ic opinions. They spok e to the nation and were influenced by the nation, as scholars have noted but I argue they should be heard as a representative minority voice of the nation; unfolding this point will further develop discourse about the canonical con tributions of women writers who were almost lost to obscurity "To a considerable extent the reassessment of the Restoration and
5 eighteenth century poetry re mains to be done" (Backscheider, Eighteenth Century Wom en Poets 402). Those poets who were c ut fr om literary history's pages and sided with the seeming ly hopeless or heretical causes of their moment present a singular opportunity for scholars to delve deeply into the poetry of the minority muse and fully grasp the multiplicity of her expressions Con sidering the vast number of females publishing in the period, we must consider their collective utterance as constituting an unofficial platform of speech. Given the boundaries of this thesis, I explore three p oets whose works demonstrate dissension withi n the era. Like Paula Backscheider I have discovered that because "poetry is so compressed, and the language so allusive and metaphoric, no summary can capture what is being said without being, ironically, longer than the poem" ( Eighteenth Century Women Poets xiv). Therefore, I focus narrow ly because these writers share a commonality; they expressed their nationa l views from a non maj ority position in relationship to Parliament's ruling forces. I will analyze their poetic responses of resistance to furt her the progress of women's literary discourse; it is essential to investigate their poetry to exp and our insight upon how vast and varied an agency these poems offered to women I discuss their political agency in term s of each poet's role as "agent" as outlined above; this definition refers to each poet as one who oper ates in a particular direction, one who produces an effect. Of things, the efficient cause" (OED ). Eighteenth century readers "turned to poetry for investigation of such matters as how on e should live not primarily because of the absence of other resources, but rather because they believed poetry a particularly authoritative mode. The assumption that verse
6 dealt with important concerns permeated society" (Spacks 7). I propose that if read ers acknowledged that a certain respect was due to poetry, then poets knew this as well. If one discerns she possesses authority in a literary form and also realizes her audience will contemplate expressions made in this genre then she should capitalize u pon this versification as a source of power. Moreover, this resource of influence would be particularly usefu l to the voiceless vote less woman poet as middle or lower class Many writers employed poetic forms to engage in civic discourse, express dissen t, point to societal ills, and eventually i nfluence cultural change. Female authored writ ing in the eighteenth century was a public and civil force, not merely a discourse limited to the domestic sphere. We are reminded that "current research is increa singly unwilling to assume the absolute efficacy of the public/private distinction, and is uncovering all kinds of ways in which women contributed to the complex network of communications through which public opinion is formed" (Jones 6). Public and priva te spheres overlap and females exercised authority, speaking on civic matters as they could through writing, but specifically in my argument, through poetry. P rint offered a platform for those who possessed little recourse to reach a wide audience and f urthermore, women who held unpopular, libertine, or heretical opinions ( meaning the views of the non powerful denomination s of the moment, such as High Anglican or Catholic Church ) would have been utter ly silenced without the rise of print in Britain Oth er genres were also read aloud, but how did Behn, More, and Barb auld employ poetry to make their individual authority heard to infl uence their own circles?
7 Aphra Behn : This paper begins with Aphra Behn, widely known as "the first professional woman wri ter" (Backscheider and Ingrassia British Women Poets 869). Additionally s he was one of the foremost feminists to exercise freedom of speech in her works Opacity masks Behn's precise place and year of bi rth, but scholarly accounts of her youth provide as clear as possible a biography. "Published accounts of her early life were given shortly after her death and seem closely connected to each other and to her fiction, but the reference that demands the most credence in made by Thomas Colepeper in his eig hteen volume manuscript, 'Adversaria', probab ly written in the 1690's" (Todd, Poems of Aphra Behn vii). 5 This record continues, "Mrs Aphara Behn was born at Canterbury or Sturrey, her name was Johnson. She was foster sister to the Colonell, her mother b eing the Colonell's nurse she was a most beautiful woman, & a Most Excellent poet" (Culpeper as qtd in Todd, P o e ms of Aphra Behn vii). She lived in the English colony of Surinam and "apparently married a city merchant of Dutch extraction and after his d eath became a spy in Antwerp for Charles II" (Ferguson First Feminists 143). Behn's experience with espionage, I contend, probably factored into creating her informed and distinct perspective. Not only would this employment distinguish her from other wom en, but it 5 Thomas Co l e peper's birth in December 1637, along with his cousin's contribution to her Miscellany (1685) establishes his close association with Aphra Beh n and thus the reliability of hi s biographical commentary (Todd, Poems of Aphra Behn viii).
8 would ma ke her unusual among men also This service indicates her de votion to the Stuart monarchy, for d espite shifts in Britain's reign she maintained fidelity for the Stuart Crown and the rise of William and Mary to the throne deter red neit her her allegiance to Charles nor to his brother James. During her career, she wrote prolifically in genres such a s plays, novels and poetry, and yet endured lifelong financial difficulties. She is buried in Westminster Abbey; the epitaph bearing her na me and date of death is "unusual for its brevity" and for its lack of mention of father, husband, birthplace or age; beneath Astrea Behn's name one finds these words, "Here lies a Proof That Wit can never be / Defence enough against Mor t ality" ( Todd Poem s of Aphra Behn vii). Critical consensus agrees that Behn composed these lines because t he inscription is "in tune with her final published poem written after the departure from England of her beloved James the II, A Pindaric to the Rev Dr. Burnet in whic h she appears to acknowledge the price of 'Immortality' is a commodification of the self and an acceptance of t hat self by powerful men" (Todd, Poems of Aphra Behn xxiii). Some critical discussion posits that Behn's writing on national politics has "be en neglected in much of the criticism thus far, which has understandably focused on issues of gender" (Salzman xx). But, I sense that both the creation of Behn's political poetry as a female and her part as a Tory backer of the Stuart royal bloodline info rm one another Behn's "A Letter to Mr Creech at Oxford Written in the Last Great Frost" (1682) favors
9 Charles II and his brother James II. 6 Her ode, "A Pindaric on the Death of our Late Sovereign: With an Ancient Prophecy on His Present Majesty" (1685) l aments the death of Charles II and vocalizes her hopes for James's succession to the throne (Salzman 251). While she ve rsified the dedication to Mary, (William's wife) she declined to write for the "winning cause of William of Orange" (Salzman xx). Behn crafted, A congratulatory poem to Her Most Sacred Majesty, on the universal hopes of all loyal persons for a Prince of Wales by Mrs. A. Behn" (1688) which praise s Queen Mary 's marriage to Wil liam. A p roponent of William of Orange, Reverend Gilbert Burne t sought her allegiance while he was drumming up support for the new king; her refusal signifies Behn's self awareness of her own agency Burnet's need to procure Behn as trophy signals her worth to hi m as a leadin g propagandist for the democracy Dep arting from the response Burnet desired she chose instead to celebrate her power as a writer in, "A Pindaric to the Reverend Doctor Burnet, on the Honour He Did Me of Enquiring After Me and My Muse" (1689). The form i s written in "the style of the ancien t Greek poet Pindar ( c 518 438B.C .) and Behn's follows the style of Abraham Cowley's Pindarique Odes (see sense B. 1). Pindar's poems were characterized by lyricism and the use of a variety of metres" (OED). Behn's ode to Burnet incorporates elements of the classical form, and is written in six stanzas. A complime ntary, respectful tone typifi es much of the poem, but the mood is one of ambivalent tension, as her flattery 6 Thomas Creech's bac kground information was accessed through the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography online resource
10 toward him is overblown. A close reading of this ode reveals the poet creating a se ries of classical and biblical images with which she can align herself. "When old Rome's candidates aspired to fame, / And did the people's suffrages obtain/ For some great consul, or a Caesar's name; / The victor was not half so pleased/ As I, when given the honour of your choice" (lines 1 1 5). To begin, she depicts ancient Roman candidates who were being elected, and like Burnet they solicited allies for the current rule; she compares herself to them. She depicts his "choice" of her as an "honour", b ut such over blown praise reveals her deeper disdain for his opportunism (line 1 .5). Repetition emphasizes Burnet's persuasive ability: "And preference had in that one single voice; / That voice, from whence im mortal wit still flows" (lines 1 .6 7). She ca uses us to focus upon his "one single voice" as a propagandist for William through His "wondr'ous pen / In al l that's perfect and sublime" (1 .11 12). The backdrop of the situation creates a peculiar tension between Burnet and Behn which she ec hoes through embattled terms. Sc holar Gary De Krey explain s that t he Glorious Revolution (1688 9) occurred when Dutch William III overthrew Britain's James II ; the Count of Nassau entered Britain with 14,000 15,000 troops app a rently outnumbered by James' s 29,000 30, 000 troops; however, thr ough a series of orchestrated manipulations, many of James 's troops along with leadership defected to William's side ( De Krey 253 254) These deser tions created an air of instability for James 's soldiers who suspected that their cou nterparts might cut and run and this uncertainty weakened their morale which led to a military unsteadiness eroding their leader 's assurance and thus, his power ; "m ost shattering to James's confidence were the desertions of his youngest daughter, Anne, a nd of her husband
11 Prince George of Denmark: the royal patriarch was now at war with both his daughters and his son in law" (De Krey 255). By 1687 8, William and Mary were "already friendly with such expatriates such as Gilbert Burnet, the renegade Scot Burnet sought Behn's allegiance on behalf of William and Mary, but I hold that he underestimated her devotion to the monarchy, misinterpreting her fidelity as an object to be traded or bartered. His perspect ive was shap ed by his party affiliation with the "Whigs who remained the party of trade, business, and finance" and they were the party of "dissent and of English puritan tradition" (De Krey 266). "Two thirds of the dioceses of England lost their bishops in the first two years after the Revolution through death, resignation, or deprivation. William and Mary filled the vacancies with moderate men, like historian Gilbert Burnet, who would have preferred accommodation with dissent rather than a mere tolerati on" (De Krey 301.) Behn states that Burnet's "pow'rful reasoning dressed in finest sense, / A thousand ways my soul can invade (2 .1 2). She acknowledg es his role of assailing her "opinion's weak defence" which against her will, he conquers and persuade s ( 2 .3 4). How shall we interpret Behn's characterization of her own position as less powerful? Within the authoritative mode of poetry, she claims that her opinion has a weak defence, but she asserts her position here, in this way, having defied his c on quest from her position on the fringe. She plays the role of the humble woman who has been wounded by Burnet, "Till now, my careless Muse no higher strove/ T'inlarge her glory and extend her wings; / than underneath Parnassus grove, / To sing of shepherds an d their humble loves,"(lines 3 7 10). She heightens the sense of her
12 position in the prior lines by contrasting herself with fellow poet Abraham Cowley who sings "of heroes and of kings," but she has not, until now (lines 3 12). Complicating the po sition she has achieved in the poem, she calls attention to images of commerce and the "current coin" of a country as compared to the exchange value of her poetry, and the "inferior metal" refers to her position as a Tory and as a woman (3 .16 17). In th e next stanza, Behn shifts roles from the penitent female to "My Muse that would endeavor fain to glide/ With the fair prosperous gale, and the full driving tide/ But loyalty commands with pious force, / That stops me i n the thriving course" (lines 4 .6 8). Unlike Burnet, she is no fair weather friend, no opportunist. Behn is left "unpitied far behind/ On the forsaken shore" and at the edge of where he has bid her to enter (line s 4 .11 12). The "fair and prosperous gale" and "loyalty" refer to her explici t refusal to forsake James II and be hired by the new government for William. A Janus faced self description occurs at the end of the fourth stanza. "Thus while the chosen seed possess th e promised land, / I like the excluded prophet stand," she writes e voking a n image of aging Moses (lines 4 .18 19). Although Moses led the Israelites through the wilderness for 40 years, he could not accompany the m to the homeland God had pledged. Behn wrestled with a sense of ali enation as a Tory in a new state of Whig leadersh ip, yet Behn also heightens disjunctions between her own texts and those on which they are based, dramatically entering and revising those texts as a female sexual subject" (Barash 103). The biblical verse about the "excluded prophet" follows: "A nd the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this
13 congregation into the land which I have given them" ( Num. 20: 1 2). Later in the Pentateuch, God addre sses Moses just before he dies, "And the Lord said unto him, this is th e land w hich I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying, I will give it unto thy seed: I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither" (D eut 34:4). This biblical trope expresses Behn's sense of marginalization; Britain has seen "wondr'ous change" that she deplores (line 6 .1) She could compromise her principles j oin the Whig party and benefit from the ne w k ingdom but this would requ i re her to disobey her Muse Moses c annot enter Canaan because God has prohibited it; Moses and Behn remain outsiders among their own people. S he may i dentify w ith Moses, as a writer, who despite composing the first five books of the Old Testament is a man who cannot accompany the nation about which he h as written. Moreover, Burnett's invitation to her pen signals the political power which she cannot use. Behn acknowledges the "nation owes" Burnet's "great pen" for all the "good this mig hty change has wrou ght" (lines 5 .1 2). She recalls "the wiser Greeks o'ercame their foes ," and "It was not by the barbarous force of blows," equating Burnet's wisdom with Greek trickery and the Trojan horse (lines 5 .14 15). "Not all their numbers the famed town could win/ 'Twas nobler stratagem that let the conqueror in" (lines 5. 19 20). William entered England's borders, and he defeated James from within, echoing the classical Greek story. She credits Burnet for his orchestrations on William's behalf, "And great Nassau shall in your annals live/ To all futurity./ Your pen shall more immortalize his name,/ Than even his own r enowned and celebrated fame" ( lines 6 15 18).
14 Hannah More : Hannah More followed Behn a century later, and each wom an remained loyal to her p ersonal ethic s, demonstrating tenacity. Throughout their lives, both writers chose to express their points of view chal lenging restrictions on female speech to champion the cause of th os e less powerful Hannah More was born in 1743 in Stapleton, near Br istol. Raised the daughter of a schoolmaster, she was the second youngest of five children. Her penchant for learning languages was discovered early in her life and initially, her father educated her. As she grew older, masters employed in a school fou nded by her elder sisters became her teachers. Her father prepared his five daughters to sustain themselves as educators ; Hannah More eventually taught at her sisters' thriving academy. When she was 23, she became engaged to Edward Turner, who was twenty years her senior; he eventually severed their long engagement ; upon his death, he left her an annuity. She had a degree of financial freedom which allowed her to "indulge her literary ambitions" (Lonsdale 323). She published her first work, The Search a ft er Happiness : A Pastoral Drama ( 1773 ) which was popular ly performed at boarding schools Her tragedy, The Inflexible Captive (1774) was stag ed at Exeter and Bath in 1775; this drama broadened her social circle to include associations with influential cit izens such as, David Garrick, Edmund Burke, and Samuel Johnson, as well as literary women like Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Hester Chapone, and Elizabeth Carter. She shifted from creating dramas to
15 works that evinced her teaching interests. In 1833, she die d at the age of 88 and left 30,000 pounds to approximately seventy charities (Lonsdale 324 325). During her lifetime, she maintained friendships with William Wilberforce and other renowned clergymen; these associations have led some critics to assess her work as growing "increasingly didactic and pious" (Lonsdale 324). Such critique seems to overlook her works contribution within the public sphere reflecting her steadfast devotion to God. "Since the 1780s More's theological views had been those of the evangelical p arty, as demonstrate d by her involvement with the Clapham Sect, a group of Anglican evangelicals centered on the Battersea Rise, the Clapham ho me of the banker Henry Thornton, yet she continued to deplore the religious factions that divided th e Church of England and the Christian church in general ( Skedd ). I n t he mid seventeenth century, Quaker i s m added to th e religious climate that encouraged abolitionis ts and women's activis ts ; members practiced personal faith by heeding God's direction fo r serving Him. A large group of men and women were attracted and felt the call to travel and preach, not as ordained ministers but as lay messengers" (Collier). A n unprecedented liberty of speech beg an because of this denomination; in the eighteenth cent ury More assumed the mantle of a counter majority position speaking public ly through her poetry about matters like slavery, education, and poverty. More's nonconformist perspectives further heighten the importance of her contribution to women 's literary history. The e vangelical position concerning female vocal activity outside of the home contributed to More openly preaching sermons in her community. Her resolve to express her position contributed to her prolific authorship in print as well. Her 17 88 "Slavery A
16 P oem ," a response to Parliament's defeat of William Wilberforce's bill to end the slave trade reflects her religious, social, and parliamentary perspectives simultaneously. 7 She align ed with Wilberforce in the Ab olition Movement because of her worldview. Many shifts were taking place in England: British Parliament debated slavery; in 1783 American Independence was recognized at the Treaty of Versailles; William Pitt the Younger, a Tory was the leading Minister in Parliament; his bill to re form Parliament was defeated in 1785. She crafted her poem during this complex time and therefore, anal yz ing it within this context enriches its significance as a contribution to female freedom of speech and our understanding of women's eighteenth centur y poetry. More's poetry represents a female perspective but more crucially it is one of dissidence. Scholar Moira Ferguson expla ins, "It is also true most pre 1800 feminists did not protest slavery. Few did. When the subject of slavery did appear in e arly feminist writings, aside from those of Aphra Behn and religious women, it frequentl y described women's condition. At the very least, this usage suggests that slavery was viewed negatively even if not actively opposed" ( First Feminists xi i). More's a bolitionist authorship should be interpreted as a form of active opposition; she joined William Wilberforce who resolved within hours of his election 'to be a no party man', indicating from the outset an absence of appetite for ministerial office and a de tachment from the main political groupings which would resurface much more strongly in his later years" (Hague 36). One of More's closest 7 Class figured significant ly in More's view as affirme d by her broken ties with Anne Yearsley. Critics Roger Lonsdale and Susan Staves have noted that Yearsley disagreed with More when the latter set up a trust to keep funds from Ye arsley's husband (Lonsdale 324; Staves 439). Sc holar Kerri An drews suggests that More and Yearsley crafted abolitionist poetry because they were engaged in "a fiercely contested poetic battle to determine the right to speak for the city of Bristol (21)
17 parliamentarian friends ascribed no attachment to party affiliation; if a smaller minority existed, it is not apparen t what it was. In 1789, William Wilberforce proposed abolition legislation, and its history is as follows: In the House of Commons, Wilberforce was an eloquent and indefatigable sponsor of anti slavery legislation. In 1789, he introduced 12 resolution s against the slave trade and gave what many newspapers at the time considered the most eloquent speeches ever delivered in the Commons. The resolutions were supported by Pitt (who was by then Prime Minister) Charles Fox (often an opponent of Pitt's), an d Edmund Burke, but they failed to be enacted into law, and instead the issue was postponed until the next session of Parliament. In 1791, he again brought a motion to the House of Commons to abolish the slave trade, but it was defeated 163 88. In 1792 Wi lberforce, buttressed by the support of hundreds of thousands of British subjects who had signed petitions favouring the abolition of the slave trade, put forward another motion. However, a compromise measure, supported by Home Secretary Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville, that called for the gradual abolition was agreed and passed in the House of Commons, much to the disappointment of Wilberforce and his supporters. For the next 15 years,
18 Wilberforce was able to achieve little progress toward ending the slave trade (in part because of the domestic preoccupation with the war against Napoleon). In 1807, however, he finally achieved success: on Feb. 23, 1807, a bill to abolish the slave trade in the West Indies was carried in the commons 283 16, and it bec ame law on March 25. ( Britannica ) 8 In response to the defeat of the first motion (1789), M ore crafted "Slavery A P oem ; this 20 stanza poem consists of an aabb rhyme scheme in couplets with stanzas betwe en eigh t and 16 lines in length and maintains a so mber tone throughout. The poem condemns "her countrymen as white savages and robbers who are 'abhorred' (Backscheider Eighteenth Century Women Poets 8). More begins, "IF heaven has into being deign'd to call/ The light, O LIBERTY! to shine on us all; / Brigh t intellectual Sun! why does th y ray/ To earth distribute only partial day?" (lines 1 4). 9 The speaker calls attention to an imbalance in Nature and the shining of Liberty's light caused by injustice toward the slaves. "While the chill North with th y right hand is blest, / Why should fell darkness half the South invest? Was it decreed, fair Freedom! at thy birth, / That thou shou'd'st ne'er irradiate all the earth?" (lines 12 15). Britain "basks in full blaze of light" and the 8 The history above brackets More's poem (an early response to the first act of legislation against slave trafficking), but "t he 1807 statute did not, however, change the legal position of persons Britannica ). In 1823 younger followers of Wilberforce founded the Antislavery Society, of which Wilberforce became a vice president. Once again a 1833" ( Encyclopedia of World Biography ). 9 More's "Slavery : a po em" is drawn from Eighteenth Century Co llections Online because the poem contains 294 lines and More's footnotes which help establish her authorial intent.
19 speaker juxtaposes Eng land with "sad Afric quench'd in total night," unjustly forced through the slave trade to remain in darkness of human injustice (lines 16 18). "O, plaintive Southerne! whose impasion'd strain/ So oft has wak'd my languid Muse in vain!" reminds the audienc e of the play based on Behn's novella Oron o oko or the Royal Slave More casually aligns her piece with Behn's earlier w ork that the public knew well since Oron o oko's popularity was enhanced by its dramatic adaptation by Thomas Southerne in 1696, an adapt ation which was performed throughout the eighteenth century" (Salzman x). According to Salzman, Behn renders a "critical analysis of the slave trade and depiction of native morality and Christian hypocrisy" in Oroonoko and these themes also occur in More 's poem ( Salzman x). Many would argue that Behn's narrative is not anti slavery, and therefore one must be clear, "Although Behn did not have the modern concept of slavery, then, she did have a sense of the improper commodification of human beings for mon ey, against which she protests in many of her works, and indeed Oroonoko makes a distinction between enslaving battle victims and slaving for money" (Todd Aphra Behn Oroonoko xxvii). Behn, Southerne and More's views on slave ry were situated in their tim es; it seems that More alludes to Southerne's preceding work to streng then her own lines. We can (and should ) see their works as a form of collective female speech endorsing the minority position. Rich d iversity exists between Behn and More's literary co ntributions ; they are both included in Paula Backscheider and Catherine Ingrassia's 2009 anthology British Women Poets of the Long Eighteenth Century More, an evangelical Anglican an d Behn, a libertine, reveal the variety that existed in the early femini st non majority views. More interprets Behn's lines
20 with "For millions feel what Oronoko felt ," censuring the slave trade's injustice perpetrated on the "sable race" which possesses a "native genius" that should not be allowed to be debased (lines 56, 60 61). Crafting her abolitionist argument, she asserts ," and she builds her point by depicting a slave named Quashi who knew his own "sense of worth" (lines 67, 83). More's footnote relates h is story; he was "of high spirit" and would rather die than "bear the mark of the whip" which was debasing. 10 In her footnote, she excerpts a section of the book, Essay on the Treatment and Conversion of the Afric an Slaves in the British Sugar Colonies by Reverend John Ramsay (1784). It is as follows: Qua shi had somehow offended his master, a young planter whom he had been bred up in the endearing intimacy of a play fellow. His services had been faithful; his attachment affectionate. The master resolv ed to punish him, and pursued him for that purpose. In trying to escape, Qua shi stumbled and fell; the master fell upon him; they wrestled long with doubtful victory; at length Qua shi got the uppermost, and. being firmly seated on his master's breast, h e secured his legs with one hand, and with the other drew a sharp knife; then said, "Master, I have been bred up with you from a child; I have loved you as myself : in return, you have condemned me to a 10 More's poe m employs this spelling: Quashi, but Ramsay's Essay utilizes this version: Qua shi. Also, it should be clear that More footno ted Ramsay's Essay as a secondary source in "Slavery : a p oem."
21 punishment of which I must ever have borne the mar ks: thus I can only avoid them;" so saying, he drew the knife with all his strength across his own throat, and fell down dead, without a groan, on his master's body. ( More 6 7 ) Again, More gleans strength from an established work treating slavery for her poem 's political statement. She highlights how the "savage" extends loyalty, but the planter does not ; Quashi exhibits a quality of sensibility and his integrity contrasts with the owner's lack of mercy or human kindness Despite their long standing connecti on, the planter reveals no Christian love. More scrutinizes Christian hypocrisy throughout the poem because England, a Christian nation, had just voted to maintain slave trading for econom ic reasons ; the majority eclipsed the minority in Parliament. More condemns the "white savage" and his "lust of gold" and "lust of conquest" for making the whole "sum of human blessings less" and sinking "the stock of general happiness" (lines 211 212, 2 27 228). More praises American s who emancipated all slaves, "No blo od staine'd laurels crown'd thy virtuous toil, / No slaughter'd natives drench'd thy fair earn'd soil. / Still thy meek spirit in thy flock survives, / Consistent still, their doctrines rule their lives;" (lines 245 248). 11 11 "Still in thy meek spirit thy flock survives" is More's reference to the American Quakers who emancipated slaves throughout the colonies (line 247).
22 But, moving beyond mere contra st of true and false religion or piety and hypocrisy, More asserts that emancipation along with prosperity can co occur, for h er words claim that change o n slavery legislation is possible : "Astonish'd echo tells the vocal shore, / Opression's fallen, and S lavery is no more!" ( lines 289 290).
23 Anna Letitia Barbauld : Behn and More's poetic transcendence of gender limitations form s a fellowship amid literary history with Anna Letitia Barbauld whose "contemporaries praised her 'masculine head' as well as her 'feminine heart' ( McCarthy and Kraft 24). Anna Letitia Barbauld nee Aikin, was born in 1743, at Kibworth, Leicestershire; she was the eldest of two children of Dr. John Aikin and his wife Jane Jen nings (Lonsdale 299). She credit ed her upbringing in the countryside and her association with boys as formulating her diffident "approach to polite society" (Lonsdale 299). When she was 15 years old, her father began working as a tutor at the new Warrington Academy for Dissenters; this was a p lace of "liberal intellectual life" where Dr. Joseph Priestly encouraged her to write poetry. 12 She published with her brother, quickly earning renown as an author. In 1774, she wed Rochemont Barbauld, a clergyman who had been a student at Warrington Acad emy. The couple worked together after they settled at Palgrave, Sussex; he led a dissenting congr egation, and they began a school where she taught the younger students. During this time, she wrote several works for children, such as Devotional Pieces ( 17 75), Lessons for Children (1778) and Hymns in Prose for Children (1781) ( McCarthy and Kraft 10 11). The crown oppressed British residents of Presbyterian faith and 12 Priestly was later well known for his published works on science, theology as well as politics. For his unorthodox opinions Priestly was attacked by a mob in 1791 and so harassed thereafter that he emigrated to America in 1794" (McCarthy and Kraft 168).
24 characterized the group as Dissenters from the C hurch of England. In Scotland her denom ination, the Presbyterian Kirk was "legally supported," but England regarded the group as "threats to the state," restricting their liberties because of a Dissenter led Civil War against the crown in the mid 1600's ( McCarthy and Kraft 15). Politically ou tside its power structure, she sought to influence a system that marginalized her voice as a Presbyterian and as a woman. She began visiting London where her literary circle grew as she associated with Hannah More, Elizabeth Montagu, and Hester Chapone (Lo nsdale 299). In 1802, the Barbauld couple moved to Stoke Newkington where she c ontinued to pursue her writing; she published widely on societal concerns (Lonsdale 300). Barbauld penned "The Mouse's Petition to Doctor Priestly Found in the Trap where he had been confined all Night" during a visit to the Priestly family's home in 1771, publishing it later in Poems ( 1773 ) This "Petition" consists of 12 quatrains in length, written in "short measure" which is "the S.M. of the hymnals; a quatrain rhyming a bab or abcb" (Collier). Upon the "Mouse's Petition's" debut, reviewers rebuked "Priestly for inhumanity to animals," and they praised Barbauld for "denouncing the inhumanity" of such experiments ( McCarthy and Kraft 69; Ready 92). This poem, asserted Barb auld, was about mercy and justice, not humanity and cruelty (Re ady 92). Critics have studied the work in numerous ways, but interpreting it within in its historical context offers the most insight into its contemporaneous effects. Lines from Virgil's Aen eid valance the poem set ting its tone "To spare the humbled, and to tame in war the proud!" ( McCarthy and Kraft 70). The classical quotation suggests that link s will be made between the following relationships: Rome and its subjects, a captor and his ca ged mouse, and
25 England and its subjects. Barbauld personifies a laboratory animal in the poem's opening quatrain, "Oh! hear a pensive captive's prayer, / For liberty that sighs; / And never let thine heart be shut/ Against the prisoner's cries" (lines 1 4) Consisting of 12 quatrains, the poem develops the theme of restricted freedom for the "forlorn and sad" captive mouse who is sitting "Within the wiry grate;" (lines 5 6). "If e'er they breast with freedom glow'd, / And spurn'd a tyrant's chain, / Let not thy strong oppressive force/ A free born mouse detain" (lines 9 12). The poem's "free born mouse" alludes to a "cant phrase" used by liberals to refer to free born Englishman; Scottish poet James Thomson coined the expression ( McCarthy and Kraft 71). Barbauld dialogues with British history and the pol itical struggle for freedom as her poetic discourse engages with Thomson's. 13 Thomson protested in "Winter" from his book T he Seasons (1725) "The free born Briton to the dungeon chain'd/ Or, as the lust of cruelty prevail'd" ( lines 371 372). Therefore, we should consider the "Mouse's Petition" as a civil rights statement because it enters into a tradition of discourse on the theme of the rights of free born Englishmen who differ from subjects of autocra cies In "The Mouse's Petition ," she writes, "The cheerful light, the vital air, / Are blessings widely given; / Let nature's commoners enjoy/ The common gifts of heaven" and infers that God bestows "blessings" that should have their proper place in the lives of all Brit ish citizens (lines 21 24). Expanding upon on the idea of connectedness, her lines warn, "Beware, lest in the worm you crush/ A brother's soul 13 Thomson was a tutor of Scottish orig in, and therefore he was not a member of the upper class. Scholar Spacks reveals that Thomson (and other poets) through "poetic accomplishment" could "speak to the educated gentry and aristocracy," often becoming "accepted members of society" (58). Issue s of class and freedom are what Thomson's "Winter" considers, and Barbauld does as well, from her dissenting perspective.
26 you find; / And tremble lest thy luckless hand/ Dislodge a kindred mind/ (lines 33 36). Or, i f this transient gleam of day/ Be all of life we share, / Let pity plead within thy breast/ That little all to spare"(lines 37 40). H er pronoun usage in these lines speak s of a kindred relationship and the unity of English people, regardless of church or party affiliation; s he emphasizes that "th y hand" and "thy breast" demean the life we share." So, the unmerciful and unjust ass ail their own people; this correlation is formed as she declares that f ull and free citizenship in Britain belongs to all. Ba rbauld's depiction of a helpless prisoner to highlight England's cultural need for mercy toward its oppressed was not the last time she exerted literary authority for a civic cause. Barbauld, like Hannah More responded in verse to Wilberforce's defeated a bolition ist efforts, and h er response belongs to a tradition of poet s who versified to end slavery; poets like Yearsley, Helen Maria Williams, Mor e and others read and responded to each other's works, and Barbauld sent a copy to Hannah More, who thanked her warmly" ( McCarthy and Kraft 122). Wilberforce proposed his formal motion on abolition" in April of 1791, and Barbauld pub lished her "Epistle" on June 11, attempting to shape the public discourse over Wilberforce's speech. Both Wilberforce and Barba uld spoke from the non majority position on the issue of defeating slavery H e sought to correct England's human trafficking through verbal speech in governmental venues, where as Barbauld took the plea directly to the popul ace in written poetry. Her "Ep istle to William Wilberforce, Esq. on the Rejection of the Bill for Abolishing the Slave Trade consisting of 124 lines; divided into 6 sections between 14 a nd 38 lines long, utilizes mainly aabb rhyme scheme, and it opens with an ironic
27 address to, "Ceas e, Wilberforce, to urge thy generous aim / Thy Country knows the sin, and stands the shame!" (lines 1 2). Barbauld does not intend that Wilberforce should really stop fighting slavery; these lines censure British citizen s who will not correct its commodif ication of persons "The Preacher, Poet, Senator in vain/ Has rattled in her sight the Negro's chain" (lines 3 4). Placing "Poet" between the "Preacher" and the "Senator," Barbauld claims an equal footing with r eligious and political leaders, and McCarth y and K raft's commentary avers her participation in "the antislavery discourse in poems, sermons, and pamphlets in the later 1780's, along with (and in response to) testimony in Parliament on the conditions of the trade ; therefore, as a speaker she places herself within the medium of talk, empathizing with the efforts made "in vain" for freedom. Her poem's paradoxical tone is echoed through the lines "In vain, to thy white standard gathering round, / Wit, Worth, and Parts and Eloquence are found" and the "white standard" signifies virtue (lines 19 20). Barbauld's appeal to morality as the basis for ending the trade is clear in these lines: "Each flimsy sophistry by turns they try; / Each plausive argument, the daring lye, / The artful gloss, that moral s ense confounds" (lines 27 29). Here she states that t he fallacious arguments are "flimsy" and plausible, but incorrect in terms of ethical principles. Dismantling the pseudo rea soning used by slavery's adherents she comments, "With impious mockery wrest the sacred page" (line 35). Slavery's proponents defended their position by twisting bible passages and shap ing the scripture to conceal their sins; this line incorporates the transcripts of the parliamentary motion into her "Epistle ."
28 Having disassem bled the logic of the pro slavery side from the representative's arguments, Barbauld presents her audience with a face of slavery as follows: "Of thriving industry, and faithful love: / But shrieks and yells disturb the balmy air / Dumb sullen looks of w oe announce despair, / And angry eyes thro' dusky features glare" (lines 80 83). McCarthy and Kraft point to the scarcity of "rebellious voiced Africans" in abolitionist literature, so perhaps Barbauld's poem moves beyond the time's literary conventions i n the work's previous lines (125). She intends for her l istener to stop and mark the solitary occurrence in the epistle of a triplet. In addition, the following couplet emphasize s slavery's brutality : "Far from the sounding lash the Muses fly / And sensua l riot drowns each fi ner joy" (lines 84 85). I n the preceding lines the speaker depicts the Muses, inspiration s of art, music and poetry as they take flight from the sound of wh ipping blows upon slaves for the spirit of creativity fle es the brutal sc ene. Closing her "Epistle ," the speaker stresses the seeming futility of his fight "By foreign wealth are British morals chang'd" ; however, h e deserves praise for his endeavors sinc e he has aided the oppressed as servant of God, "Whose efforts yet arrest Heavn's' lifted hand" (line s 104 111). Wilberforce's "merit stands, no greater and no less, / Without, or with the varnish of success;" and she concludes that his virtuous fight will be remembered (lines 114 115). "But see k no more to break a Nation's fall, / For ye have sav'd yourselves -and that is all" (lines 116 117). He had not (yet) transformed the law, but "faithful History, in her various page, / Marking the features of this motley age," will reveal that he sought "To s hed a glory, and to fix a stain ( line s 120 122). But she
29 laments to Wilberforce, time will recall "how y ou strove, and that you strove in vain" (line 123). Her "Epistle to Wilberforce" took the form of a letter ; thus the words would have been heard by another mind in a sor t of conversation. She means for these words to have an audible life beyond the page. Barbauld's poem "Hymn: 'Ye are the Salt of the Earth' (1797) is a poetic song also meant to be heard. She advocated public recitation for various reasons; in "her co llection of prose and poetry called T he Female Speaker (1811) Barbauld says that snippets of poetry are meant to be read aloud by young women, thereby indelibly impressing on their minds an association between rational moral justice and beautiful diction, beautiful sound" ( Mandell 123). In 16 quatrains of short measure, abcb rhyme scheme, t he speaker purposes, in a somber tone, to respond to several European upheavals such as: the Reign of Terror (ended August 1794); the imprisonment in Olmutz, Austria o f Marquis de Lafayette (the early French Revolutionary hero and American Revolutionary hero); and the "Polish national uprising of Tadeusz Kosciuszko" ( McCarthy and Kraft 136). 14 The opening lines echo Christ s words as He preached to a multitude, "Salt of the earth, ye virtuous few, / Who season human kind; / Light of the world, / Whose cheering ray/ Illumes the real ms of the mind" (lines 1 4). H er choice of "human kind" (versus mankind) maintains the meter but more importantly it implies a mass audienc e is addressed by the s peaker. 14 Kosciuszko "selected the battlefield and supervised fortifications that contributed to the American victory at the Battle of Sara toga (1777)", and he was responsible for building the defenses at West Point (1778 1790)"; he returned to Poland to lead the failed cause for Polish Independence" ( Oxford Reference Online ).
30 This hymn speaks to male and female Christian s who work "Where misery spreads her deepest shade, / Yo ur strong compassion glows;" she provides the example of John Howard, whose philanthropy was found "by dying beds" and "in prison glooms" as he worked to right those human injustices (lines 5 6, 9). 15 In this quatrain, pronoun forms of "ye ," "you ," "your ," and "yours" occur 28 times and add to the rhythm of the regular beats and rhymed second and fourth lines ; these pronouns point to Christians who serve self sacrificially or are martyred for their faith The movement of the poem proceeds to a depiction of Scottish reformers who were exiled to Australia for speaking out against the British government's oppressive practices; t heir call for freedom and equality was feared because of the French Revolution (lines 31 32). Barbauld evokes biblical images of a soon to be overturned Babylon with "Your's is the writing on the wall, / That turns the tyrant pale" (lines 35 36). 16 These lines may be interpreted as referring to the rise and fall of kingdoms; Barbauld treat s a serious subject in this poem as a minority voice. Outspoken, she holds steadfast to the conviction that Britain was in dire need of reform lest it be overthrown o r perhaps, she saw her country's impending fall as the natural outcome of a nation who refused to heed God and justice in its rule. 15 Barbauld's poem praises another philanthropist and reformer o f prisons John Howard (1726 90) in these lines. 16 Daniel alone could interpret this. He declared its meaning and later ruled in a high position beneath King Darius who succeeded Belshazzar. As a member of the disenfranchised class who is promoted to the ruling class, it is notable that Barbauld selects him."'This is the interpretation of each word. MENE: God has numbered your kingdom, and finished it, TEKEL: You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting; PERES: Your kingdom has been divided, a nd given to the Medes and the Persians.' Then, Belshazzar gave the command, and they clothed Daniel with purple and put a chain of gold around his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom" ( MacArthur Stu dy Bible Dan. 5:26 30).
31 Barbauld points to the tragic execution of Socrates sentenced to death by drinking poison for his supposed corruption of Gre ece's youth : "The hemlock bowl 'tis yours to dr ain" tie s the ancient's unjust fate to the end awaiting faithful Christians who teach non Presbyterian children in their Presbyterian schools (line 39). Dissenting teachers were not members of the predominant upper class; however, the influence of their methods was growing. A former student at Palgrave School who was taught by Barbauld became a political leader "who drafted the Reform Act of 1832 -the Act which after fifty years' agitation for it, redistricte d Britain to more truly represent the electora te in Parliament" ( McCarthy and Kraft 21). Despite a long life of working from a non majority position Barbauld eventually altered British government al law through her educational reform. The next two stanza s render ev ents which shook the continent, "E'en yet, the steaming scaffolds smoke/ By Seine's p olluted steam" depicts The Terror a cause for British fear toward revolutionary views S he remarks, "With your rich blood the fields are drench'd/ Where Pol ish sabres gleam ," indicating Christians being sacrificed at the guillotine through the usage of "you" to address the "salt of the earth (lines 43 44). The specific references to revolutionaries conclude with her mention of imprisoned Marquis de Lafayette, a French hero for the American Revolution, and at this point one wonders if in Barbauld's view, the "salt of the earth" must be Christian and revolutionary or merely revolutionary. Close reading complicates a simple interpretation of her hymn which func tions more as a battle hymn than a song of praise to God. This is no passive poem, but rather an active exhortation for faithful believers to rise up against tyranny and oppression; its focus reflects the revolutionary spirit of the period in Europe and A merica.
32 Barbauld composed "Eighteen Hundred and Eleven, A Poem" after Britain's twenty seven year period of ongoing conflict with France, employing a n aabb rhyme scheme with 1 7 stanzas and 334 lines. Un wavering ly Barbauld depicts Britain's ex pansionism and ceaseless battle in a negative light; the honesty of the poem exhausts even the modern reader, distanced by history's passage. This poem display s her masterful poetic skill and a critical acume n about her country's endeavors; her complex patriotism r isks assessing Britain's successes and failures placing Bri tain's welfare over her own as she laments the country's loss of prosperity. In this poem, she situates herself in a lineage by depicting historical events methodically. Her voice integrates wit h each event through becoming the speaker on the page -she connects with each hero, value or loss. The historical milieu for "Eighteen Hundred and Eleven" stems from England's battling with France since 1793, except with one brief respi te; this war spann ed continents and blockades of supplies kept civilians paying inflated prices on goods, if they cou ld obtain the provisions at all ( McCarthy and Kraft 160). Russia and Austria reneged on their alliance s with Britain between 1807 and 1809; when 1810 drew to a close "the British economy was near collapse and then in 1811, "George III succumbed to permanent dementia" ( McCarthy and Kraft 160). British people who desired peace had ample evi dence to necessitate ending the conflicts, but the political leaders hip pressed on in its fight. Motivated by the tattered state of the nation, Barbauld composed her poetic respon se "Eighteen Hundred and Eleven," and the piece was published by the end of th at year soon after it s completion Reviews, whether in conservat ive or liberal publications, "ranged from cautious to patronizingly negative to outrageously abusive" ( McCarthy and
33 Kraft 160). "Eighteen Hundred and Eleven" is a poem that derives its "polemical force" from its "representation of a country that is losing its fundamental domestic strengths" (Kaul 122). In her "Epistle to William Wi lberforce," Barbauld aligns herself with poet, preacher and politician. I assert that she speaks like a prophet in this poem, predicting Britain's fall from glory. The open ing lines of the poem tell the reader that Britain "feeds the fierce strife, the alternate hope and fear ; / Bravely, though vainly, dares to strive with Fate / And seeks by turns to prop each sinking state" ( lines 4 6). Around Britain, nations were capitu lating to Napoleon called the "Colossal Power and the "Despot" (lines 7, 9). Barbauld takes the trope of "feeds the fierce strife" to condemn the starvation which ensues as supplies are diverted away from the populace to the war effort; the lack of food brought about "Disease and Rapine" and the "tramp of marching hosts disturbs the plough" and the Soldier's sword, not the Peasant's "sickle, reaps the harvest now" (lines 16 20). "War's least horror is the ensanguined field" compared to the slow death of star vation along with disease (lines 20, 22). "Barbauld's jeremiad is not only a call for pacifism in the face of an increasing national militarism inspired by the successes of Nelson at sea and Wellington on land. It is more sweepingly an apocalyptic p rophecy, one that foretells the doom of an entire nati on" (Mellor 78). The poet admitted "I acknowledge it to be gloomy & I am sure I do not wish to be a true prophet; yet when one e of the globe, what nation has a right to say My mountain stands strong, I shall never be moved? ( B arbauld qtd. in McCarthy and Kraft 160).
34 Moving to address the plight of the fairer sex she makes a feminist critique of how British c onquests and co lonial expansion have affected the country' s minority voiced female constituents: "Fruitful in vain, the matron counts with pride/ The blooming youths that grace her honoured side ; / No son returns to press her widow'd hand" (lines 23 25). She speaks for the w idows and young women who have diminished prospects to marry since their potential mates a re all at war "Fruitful in vain, she boasts her virgin race / Whom cultured arts adorn and gentlest grace / Defrauded of its homage, Beauty mourns / And the rose withers on its virgin thorns" (lines 27 30). Statistics point to how little potential existed for women to marry at war, for an astonishing number of men at arms were mobilized, both in domestic militias and in military servic e overseas (in 1812 there were almost a million men in the army and the navy)" (Kaul 123). Barbauld indicts "vanity" as a cause of the military build up, repeating the trope several times in its earlier lines. Recognizing British triumphs, she announc es them only to highlight their ruin saying, "thy Midas dream is o'er ; / The golden tide of Commerce leaves thy shore" (lines 61 62). Her lines convey history's repetitive nature and she catalogues the rise and fall of nations; no empire is infallible to demise and Barbauld delineates the ways in which countries lose their "light." Distinguishing this term for he r poem's context indicates that "light" re presents h er country 's successes and also the past achievements of other nations. She perceives, "If westward streams the light that leaves thy shores, / Still from thy lamp the streaming radiance pours" (lines 79 80). She bears "an eloquent testimony that the asymmetries confirmed and exacerbated over the long
35 century of European colonization came at a psychic cost for the poets of empire, who worried obsessively that, for one reason or another, the 'golden tide of Commerce' would abandon their shores" (Kaul 130). O ther places are aglow besides Britain, like America's "Appalachian hills" and "Missouri's rushing waters" and "Niagara 's fall ," but not only will old successes illuminate the new world, the teachings of the English past will e ducate these settlements (lines 83, 92, 96). "The finer sense of morals and art" are "stores of knowledge the new stat es shall know, / And think thy thoughts and with thy fancy glow" (lines 87 88). Referring to England's drama through "loved Joanna" and "Shakespeare's noble rage," Barbauld cautions, "The tragic Muse resume her just control / With pity and with terror pur ge thy soul," (lines 101,103, 110 111). Barbauld warns that even British theater based upon Aristotle will move "o'er transatlan tic realms," which exist in the west (line 111). "Britain's ruins are imagined as providing crash courses in the history for y oung Americans on the new Grand Tour, who walk the banks of the Isis (the Thames at Oxford), the Cam, and the Avon in homage 'to the sod, by Statesmen, sages, poets, heroes trod' "(Barbauld lines 127 56; Kaul 126). Barbauld's speaker posits that "Perhaps some Briton whose musing mind/ Those ages live which Time has cast behind,/ To every spot shall lead his wandering guests/ On whose known site the beam of glory rests:" (lines 187 190). It seems that she becomes that "Briton ," and her readers become her wandering guests" through the places of fading glory. Almost undetected, the speaker leads his wa ndering guests ," and by this subtle pronoun shift Barbauld assumes the mantle of a masculine role, as a leader takin g us through history (line 189)
36 Risk ing her own well being, she presented a type of farewell address. In her poem, she refers to "emigrants like Joseph Priestly, or to transported convicts like the Scottish reformers Thomas Muir and Thomas Palmer, sent to Australia in 1794" ( McCarthy and Kra ft 172 ). I contend that this poem serves as a form of self exile since she never published independently after its reception. She was punished for her outspokenness in scathing review s, thus damaging her reputation, and she suffered a long period of non independent writing. Dissenting peers were exiled to Australia or sought asylum in America, but she remained in England where she lived another fourteen years and weathered the "hostile reviews" of her la st "separate publication" ( McCarthy and Kraft 36). Perhaps the poem signals an intentional self imposed exile from the independence of individual publishing, or maybe outside pressures by the literary and political realms ostracized her. Like many co dissenters, she finished her lif e as a captive free bor n British subject. She closes by addressing the political struggles of William Pitt, Charles Fox, David Garrick (actor and friend of Hannah More), Admiral Horatio Nelson, General John Moore, and John Priestly They co toiled as English subjects in the sa me era as Barbauld ; all of these men spoke and suffered persecution for arguing for the cause of freedom (lines 191 203). We witness their successes because she has led us to them ; m oreover she places herself within a tradition of male activism for politi cal equality In this final independent publication, she positions herself alongside those who have been jailed, exiled, or escaped, and t his poem can be interpreted as Barbauld's self exile from the nation for which she independently wrote, but after "Ei ghteen Hundred and Eleven ," she ceased to contribute with such autonomy ever again.
37 Conclusion : Habermas' theory of publi c and private spheres sparked the creation of talk about what women wrote and the purposes that t hey pursued through publication, and t hese blurred spheres continue to offer points for scholarly discourse Connecting poets such as Behn, More, and Barbauld as mus es of minority political voices reveals how each poet face d issues in society which may have overshadowed them through clas s, ideology, and gender. "The conviction they offer is of a difficult task heroically performed. The persuasive lesson they teach us is of the historical necessity of particular forms of aspiration, even when the odds seem stacked against the merchant, th e nation, the poet" (Kaul 275). None of the female writers were members of the clergy political parties, or other forms of governance, and this point is obvious, but w hat may be less apparent is how this "non membership" permitted them to form a poetic a nd political perspective from outside of the Establishment, and thus they share this commonality. P lacing their poems side by side in this analysis demonstrates that while forces from without pressed upon each writer to conform, none did ; f rom within, eac h writer drew from a well of independent strength. So, although they may appear to differ upon the surface, their poems expose how alike they were as voices of independence. In recent decades, scholars have studied how women writers participat ed within t he public sphere, but f emale literary contributions have yet to experience the benefit of two centuri es of
38 s cholarshi p, like male authored works have; the need for furthering our investigation of the eighteenth century woman writer can be expressed as foll ows : We have had two hundred years to discover a discourse of and strategies for reading male poets. They belong to a debate, a d ialectic; we know how to think about politics, epistemology, power, and language, in productive ways that, whether it is Mat thew Arnold or Paul De Man who writes makes these poets mean for us. A hermeneutics has evolved. Not so with female poets. We are discovering who they are, found productive historical ways of thin king about female poets either (Armstrong 15 ) T he 19 10 book Famous Blue Stockings mentions these wome n in connection with events like the Gordon Riots and The French Revolution and concludes, "But indeed, it i s not on the political but on the social si de that the record left by the Blue Stockings is so rich: we may learn in minute detail the life of the times, find out what people thought, what they talked of, what they wrote of," and this critic concludes that we may know "what they ate" and how they were "always pl easant" (Ethel Rolt Wheeler 15) 17 Modern critical inquiry into eighteenth centur y women's political poetry builds upon schol arship of the last century Analyzing the political views of Behn, Barbauld, 17 A 1778 act of Parliament "allowed Catholics to become property owners," and it preceded the Gordon Riots which entailed a series of attacks on wealthy Catholics and suspected Catholic sympathizers; this ac t had not been enacted through parliamentary debate ( Keane 32).
39 and More in their poetry as supporters of causes championed by marginalized voices has added to our understanding about these writers and about the literary history to which they contributed. Certain p oems, as discussed in this study were not created merely as art for art's sake, but rather t hey were craf ted as art for action's sake. My assessment provides a lens through which to interpret political poetry of the authorial underdogs of the period, women who were writing revolution.
40 Literature Cited: "agency, n ." OED Online. March 2010. Oxford UP. Web. 2 March 2010. "agent, n ." OED Online. March 2010. Oxford UP Web. 2 March 2010. Andrews, K erri "More's Polish'd Muse, Or Yearsley's Muse of Fire: Bitter Enemies Write the Abolition Movement." European Romantic Review 2 0.1 (2 009): 21 36. Informaworld Web. 3 Jan. 2010. Armstrong, Isobel. "The Gush of the Feminine: How Can We Read Women's Po etry of the Romantic Period? Romantic Women Writer s : Voices and Countervoices Ed. Paula R. Feldman and Theresa M. Kelley Hanover: UP New England, 1995. 13 32. NetLibrary Web. 25 Apr. 2010. Backscheider, Paula R. and Catherine Ingrassia eds. British Women Poet s of the Long Eighteenth Century : An Anthology Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2009. Print. Backscheider, Paula R. Eighteen th Century Women Poets and their Poetry: Inventing Agency, Inventing Genre Baltimore: J ohn s Hopkins UP, 2005. Print. Barash, Carol. English Women's Poetry, 1649 1714: Politics, Community, and Linguistic Authority Oxford; New York: Clarendon P; Oxford UP 1996. Print. Behn, Aphra. A Congratulatory Poem to Her most Sacred Majesty, on the Universal Hopes of all Loyal Persons for a Prince of Wales by Mrs. A. Behn Lond on: Printed for Will Canning, 1688. ProQuest. Web. 11 April 2010.
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42 Habermas, Jrgen. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society 1 MIT P pbk ed. Cambridge, MA : MIT P 1991. Print. Hague, William. William Wilberforce: The Life of the Great Anti Slave Trade Campai gne r Orlando: Harcourt, 2007. Print. Hobby, Elaine. Virtue of Necessity: English Women's Writing, 1649 88 Ann Arb or: U of Michigan P 1989. Print. Jones, Vivien. Women and Literature in Britain, 1700 1800 Cambridge England ; New York: Cambridge UP, 2000 Print. Kaul, Suvir. Poems of Nation, Anthems of Empire: English Verse in the Long Eighteenth Century Charlottesville: UP of Virginia, 2000. Print. Keane, Angela. Women Writers and the English Nation in the 1790s: Romantic Belongings Cambridge England ; New York: Cambridge UP, 2000. Print. Keegan, Bridget. "Mysticisms and Mystifications: The Demands of Laboring Class Religious Poetry." Criticism 47.4 (2007): 471 91. Project Muse. Web. 30 Oct. 2009. Kaiser Thomas E. "Reign of Terror" The Oxford Encyclo pedia of Modern World Ed. Peter N. Stearns. Oxford UP, 2008. Web. University of South Florida. 13 April 2010 Kelly, Joan. Women, History & Theory: The Essays of Joan Kelly Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1984. Print.
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44 Myers, Sylvia Harcstark. The Bluestocking Circ le: Women, Friendship, and the Life of the Mind in Eighteenth Century England. Oxford; New York: Clarendon P; Oxford UP, 1990. Print. Perry, Ruth. The Celebrated Mary Astell: An Early English Feminist. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1986. Print. Ramsay, James. A n Essay on the Treatment and Conversion of African Slave s in the British Sugar Colonies Dublin, 1784. Eighteenth Century Collections Online Web. 3 Mar. 2010. Ready, Kathryn. "What then, Poor Beastie! : Gender, Politics, and Animal Experimentation in Anna Bar bauld's The Mouse's Petition Eighteenth Century Life 28.1 (2004): 92 114. Project Muse. Web. 30 Oct. 2009. Runge, Laura L Gender and Language in British Literary Criticism, 1660 1790 Cambridge, U.K. ; New York: Cambridge UP, 1997. Print. Salzman, Paul, ed. Oroonoko and Other Writings By Aphra Behn. Oxford; New York: Oxford UP, 1994. Print. More, Hannah (1745 1833) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Ed. H.C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. Online ed. Ed. Lawrence Goldman. May 2009. Web. 26 Apr. 2010 Spacks, Patricia Ann Meyer. Reading Eighteenth Century Poetry. Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell, 2009. Print. Staves, Susan. A Literary History of Women's Writing in Britain, 1660 1789. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2 006. Print.
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About the Author : Denice Nicole Traina received her B.A. at the Universi ty of South Florida where s he earned member ship into the English Honor Society and the Golden Key Society. During her undergraduat e studies she attend ed a semester at the Universi ty of Central Florida where she achieved the Dean's List. In 2010, she obtained her M.A. in English i n the Literature track from the University of South Florida while working as a Teaching Assistant with the USF's First Yea r Composition Program. As an M.A. student, s he served o n the Rubric C ommittee, contributed to the First Year Composition website, par tic i pates in the English Graduate Student s Association and is a member of Graduate Assistant s United. She and her family reside in Florida.
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Politics and poetry :
b not so separate spheres (voice of the minority muse)
h [electronic resource] /
by Denice Traina.
[Tampa, Fla] :
University of South Florida,
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Thesis (MA)--University of South Florida, 2010.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
ABSTRACT: This thesis contributes to continuing assessments of women writers and their political activities during the long eighteenth century. Analyzing works by Aphra Behn, Hannah More, and Anna Letitia Barbauld, I assert that these writers projected their voices into public affairs, and I explore their treatment of poetic forms. Through writing, they claimed equality with fellow authors and participated as equals beside the period's political leaders, debating about and commenting upon a wide array of concerns like the Glorious Revolution, the abolition of the slave trade, British military expansion, and religious and political liberties. This thesis argues that Behn, More, and Barbauld spoke as muses for the minority causes of their historical moment; their political-poetic participation further blurs the distinction between once held perceptions of the Habermasian public sphere.
Advisor: Laura Runge, Ph. D.
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.