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Virtual Exhibits

Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Eighteenth-Century Women Writers: Poetry

The versatility of female authors is not understood by reading solely novels of the period, and the poetry in this exhibit gives depth to our comprehension of the varying literary genres that women employed throughout this time period; and helps us understand, better, how women were influenced and what works subject matters were popular. Anthologies dedicated to eighteenth-century English poets show the vastness of subject matter within these poems. Paula R. Backscheider and Catherine E. Ingrassia devote sections to “Ballads,” “The Verse Narrative,” and “The Poetry of War,” to name a few (111-128, 229-251, 419-458).

While a bit less diverse, dealing mostly with poems dedicated to other people, the seventh edition, of Mary Chandler’s (1687-1745) The Description of Bath. A Poem. Humbly Inscribed to Her Royal Highness the Princess Amelia. With Several Other Poem (1755) is a combination of her longer poem “A Description of Bath,” and the aforementioned poetry as seen in the table of contents pictured below. While Linda Veronika Troost argues that “[Alexander] Pope’s influence shows strongly” in “Bath,” her poem called “To Mrs. Moor, a Poem on Friendship” exemplifies a distinctly female genre (68). Such a poem, categorized as a “friendship poem,” was a type of poetry that Paula Backscheider states “is the only significant form of poetry that eighteenth-century women inherited from other women” (175) This dichotomy represents the ways in which  women were being influenced by the existing literary culture, but also forming their own. The anthology is available to view at the American Heritage Center.

Poems on Several Occasions Title Page

Image: Title page of The Description of Bath by Mary Chandler, 1755. Toppan Rare Books Library, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Several other examples of poetry and poetic collections are available to view at the American Heritage Center. Poems on Several Occasions (1786) by Anne Yearsley, and Poems (1816) by Hannah More, which reprints her works Florio: A Tale for Fine Gentlemen and The Bas Bleu which More also published in 1786, give more examples of what type of poetry you would find in eighteenth-century poetic anthologies. Works by Anne Finch (1660-1721), who deals with themes of depression and death in her works The Spleen (pictured below) and A Prospect of Death, are an interesting read. For example, The Spleen gives us insight into Finch’s contemplations of depression and the finality of life.

The Spleen Title Page

Image: Title page of The Spleen. Together with A Prospect of Death by Anne Finch, 1709. Toppan Rare Books Library, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.


Want to Learn More?

Check out Paula R. Backscheider and Catherine E. Ingrassia’s British Women of the Long Eigtheenth-Century for an overview of women’s poetry, available through the University of Wyoming's Coe Library.

Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

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