Bluestocking Feminism 1738-1785
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Bluestocking Feminism: writings of the Bluestocking Circle, 1738-1785. General editor, Gary Kelly; volume editors Elizabeth Eger [et al.]. 6 volumes. London: Pickering & Chatto, 1999.
General Introduction by Gary Kelly; Volume Introduction, Chronology and Bibliography; Elizabeth Montagu: An Essay on the writings and Genius of Shakespear - compared with the Greek and French dramatic Poets, 1769; Dialogues with the Dead, 1760; Selected Letters.
Elizabeth Montagu was famous in her lifetime as a letter-writer, Shakespeare critic and patron of the arts. Known as the 'Queen of the Blues', she hosted regular parties attended by the most celebrated writers of the day, among them Johnson, Burke and Hume. She was sister of Sarah Scott, the novelist and historian, and a life-long friend of Elizabeth Carter. A keen promoter of the idea of the intellectual female as a morally serious and useful member of society, she invested much of her fortune in cultural patronage and granted several female writers annuities.
Volume Introduction; Chronology and Bibliography; Elizabeth Carter: All the Works of Epictetus, 1758; Essays from Rambler, no. 44 & 100; Selected Letters and Poetry
Elizabeth Carter, poet, translator, essayist and letter-writer, was undoubtedly the most learned of the Bluestockings. Considered something of a prodigy, she lived an independent life in London in the 1730s, contributing poetry to the influential Gentleman's Magazine and forming connections with Johnson and Richardson among others. Her ground-breaking translation of Epictetus earned her - apart from financial security - many admirers, including Elizabeth Montagu. The Stoical philosophy of Epictetus formed a vital part of the Bluestockings' political and moral thinking and arguably underpins Carter's conservatism and retreat from the competitive world of publishing.
Hester Chapone & Catherine Talbot
Volume Introduction; Chronology and Bibliography; Hester Chapone: Letters on the Improvement of the Mind, 1733; Advice to a New Married Lady, 1777; Letters on Filial Obedience; Selected Poems, Essays & Letters; Catherine Talbot: Reflections on the Seven Days of the Week, 1770; A Fairy Tale, Selected Poems, Essays & Letters.
Dubbed 'the little spitfire' by Samuel Richardson, Hester Mulso Chapone published letters, tales and poetry encouraging women to develop their rational potential. The success of Letters on the Improvement of the Mind was such that it ran into 25 editions.
Catherine Talbot was commonly known in literary society as `the learned Miss Talbot' although she chose to publish little during her lifetime. Her letters to Elizabeth Carter concerning women's social position gained particular recognition for their wit, passion and clarity.
Volume Introduction; Chronology and Bibliography; Anna Seward: Selected Poems, including Elegy on Captain Cook, Monody on the Death of Major Andre, Llangollen Vale and the poetical novel Louisa; Selected Letters.
Anna Seward, a leading woman poet of her day, is generally associated with the culture of Sensibility. Yet she was also closely associated with key figures of the Midlands Enlightenment, as her work, both poetry and prose, reflects. She grew up in Lichfield, one of the major provincial literary centres in the later eighteenth-century, in a family much involved in the literary circles of Samuel Johnson, Thomas Day and Richard Lovell Edgeworth. Her letters, some of which were intended for publication, cover a wide range of topics in literature, music and religion, social criticism and the leading events of her time.
Volumes 5 and 6
Sarah Scott and Clara Reeve
Introduction; Chronology and Bibliography; Sarah Scott: A Journey through Every Stage of Life, 1754; The Test of Filial Duty; in a Series of Letters, 1772, 1757; Clara Reeve: The Progress of Romance, 1785
Sarah Scott, sister of Elizabeth Montagu, was the leading fiction writer of the first-generation Bluestocking circle and also, if one includes her works of history, the most prolific. Her novels are distinctive, and the two novels presented here are original, lively and engaging representations of the same feminist issues that Scott presented in her utopian novel of 1762, Millenium Hall.
Clara Reeve was a prolific novelist and critic. The Progress of Romance was a major work of literary history and the leading defence of women's reading in the eighteenth-century.