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«I’le to My Self, and to My Muse Be True»

Strategies of Self-Authorization in Eighteenth-Century Women Poetry


Kirsten Juhas

In their verse, many British women composing poetry in the long eighteenth century wrote about and reflected on the very process of writing itself. In doing so, they often imitated and adapted specific poetic topoi, motifs, and generic patterns established by their male predecessors and peers including, among others, Homer, Ovid, and Juvenal, Dryden, Pope, and Swift. In exploring the phallic connotations of ‘pen and ink’, in invoking the assistance of a personal muse, in writing sharp and effective ‘self-satires’, and in identifying themselves with Philomela, the mythological persona of the nightingale, women like Anne Finch, Mary Chudleigh, Sarah Dixon, Mary Leapor, Anna Letitia Barbauld, and Charlotte Smith fashioned and authorized themselves as (female) poets.
Contents: The Rights of Woman: Anne Finch, «The Introduction» – Making Atonements: Laetitia Pilkington, «Carte Blanche» – A Possessive Guest: Jane Barker, «To My Muse» – Of Bubbles and Verse: Anna Letitia Barbauld, «Washing-Day» – The Broken Petticoat: Sarah Dixon, «The Slattern» – Portrait of a Madwoman: Mary Leapor, «Mira’s Picture» – Out of Reach: Anne Finch, «To the Nightingale» – Sighing and Singing: Charlotte Smith, «To a Nightingale».