Anna Seward and the End of the Eighteenth Century by Claudia T. Kairoff

By Claudia T. Kairoff

Anna Seward and her profession defy effortless placement into the conventional sessions of British literature. Raised to emulate the nice poets John Milton and Alexander Pope, maturing within the Age of Sensibility, and publishing through the early Romantic period, Seward exemplifies the eighteenth-century transition from classical to Romantic. Claudia Thomas Kairoff’s first-class severe examine deals clean readings of Anna Seward’s most vital writings and firmly establishes the poet as a pivotal determine between late-century British writers.

Reading Seward’s writing along fresh scholarship on gendered conceptions of the poetic profession, patriotism, provincial tradition, sensibility, and the sonnet revival, Kairoff conscientiously reconsiders Seward’s poetry and important prose. Written because it used to be within the final many years of the eighteenth century, Seward’s paintings doesn't conveniently healthy into the dominant types of Enlightenment-era verse or the tropes that signify Romantic poetry. instead of seeing this as a disadvantage for realizing Seward’s writing inside of a specific literary type, Kairoff argues that this enables readers to work out in Seward’s works the eighteenth-century roots of Romantic-era poetry.

Arguably the main admired girl poet of her lifetime, Seward’s writings disappeared from well known and scholarly view almost immediately after her dying. After approximately 2 hundred years of severe forget, Seward is attracting renewed awareness, and with this publication Kairoff makes a robust and convincing case for together with Anna Seward's extraordinary literary achievements one of the most crucial of the past due eighteenth century.

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Hesketh Pearson’s one-volume The Swan of Lichfield (1936) offered those intrigued by Ashmun’s account an opportunity to peruse Seward’s correspondence without immersing themselves in the entire collection. Pearson unfortunately prefaces his book by declaring that Seward’s “flowery sentences” nauseated nineteenthcentury readers while “to us they are simply funny, as they were to her contemporaries” (9). Seward, he contends, was “a blue-stocking, a highbrow, . . and she has suffered the invariable fate of such,” so that “their only hope of survival is to be restored as ‘period pieces’ ” (9).

But, as Guillory also observes, the creation and dissemination of a literary canon has always been the province of academic institutions. We are revising the canon of eighteenth-century British poetry, for example, to reflect a more complex understanding of how literary trends rose, persisted, overlapped, and declined. under suspicious circumstances 31 Such a canon accounts for, and can be enriched by, Seward’s challenges to our cultural assumptions. Guillory’s focus in Cultural Capital is elsewhere: he believes our internal canonical debates miss the larger challenge facing our profession, the increasing marginality of literary studies themselves.

Among the few scholarly efforts focused on Seward in the wake of Lucas’s, Ashmun’s, and Pearson’s volumes is Samuel H. Monk’s article, “Anna Seward and the Romantic Poets: A Study in Taste” (1939). Monk’s purpose was pejorative. ” Poor Seward is not to be held responsible for her views, since they were merely those she picked up from her environment as her Aeolian harp caught its harmonies from a breeze. But she epitomized, in Monk’s view, “the age of gush” (122), an entire generation’s perverse adherence to “criteria which robbed poetry of all distinction, and put it within reach of the Hayleys, the Whalleys, and the Sewards” (126).

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