Anna Letitia Barbauld: Voice of the Enlightenment

Overview

Against the background of the American and French revolutions, the Napoleonic Wars, and the struggle for religious equality in Great Britain, a brilliant, embattled woman strove to defend Enlightenment values to her nation. Poet, teacher, essayist, political writer, editor, and critic, Anna Letitia Barbauld was venerated by contemporaries on both sides of the Atlantic, among them the young Walter Scott, the young Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Boston Unitarians such as William Ellery Channing. After decades in the ...

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Overview

Against the background of the American and French revolutions, the Napoleonic Wars, and the struggle for religious equality in Great Britain, a brilliant, embattled woman strove to defend Enlightenment values to her nation. Poet, teacher, essayist, political writer, editor, and critic, Anna Letitia Barbauld was venerated by contemporaries on both sides of the Atlantic, among them the young Walter Scott, the young Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Boston Unitarians such as William Ellery Channing. After decades in the historical limbo into which almost all work by women writers of her era was swept, Barbauld’s writings on citizenly ethics, identity politics, church-state relations, and empire are still deeply relevant today. Inquiring and witty as well as principled and passionate, Barbauld was a voice for the Enlightenment in an age of revolution and reaction.

Based on more than fifteen years of research in dozens of libraries and archives of five countries, this is the first full-length biography of one of the foremost women writers in Georgian England.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Studies in English Literature

Some lives intersect with the major events and movements of a time; Barbauld is such a figure.... She deserves the epithet of 'Voice of the Enlightenment.' This is an old-fashioned, magisterial biography.

Choice

Based on two decades of research and a real mastery of Romantic-era literary culture, the book provides authoritative information not only on Barbauld's life and works but also on Romantic-era politics, education, gender relations, dissenting religion, children's literature, radical politics, the booktrade, mental health, and so on... Marked by accessible prose and meticulous documentation, this will be the definitive biography of Barbauld for decades. Essential.

Eighteenth-Century Studies

A tour de force... Honest, wise, original.

Faith and Freedom

The title makes an extraordinary claim—that Anna Letitia Barbauld was a voice of and for the Enlightenment. How can this be said of a woman who, until this enthralling book was written, was known to so few? [The author] presents a thoroughly convincing case for saying it. He does this thanks to his extraordinary knowledge, not just of the life and work of Barbauld, but also of literature, culture and politics from her time (1743 to 1825) up to today.

Literary Review

William McCarthy's twenty years of work on this author, which includes co-editorship of a fine Poems and Selected Poems and Prose, has now borne fruit in this monumental, quietly magnificent biography, which will surely do as much to promote Barbauld's reputation as anyone could dream.

Guardian

A superb biography that brings a radical literary figure back into the picture... a thrilling, brilliant book.

Times Literary Supplement

The public intellectual, cultural pluralist, 'ecofeminist' and literary innovator we meet in this richly meditated study is a passionately political Anna Barbauld whose concerns speak directly to issues that vex us today.

Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society

A definitive account of her life, all the more magnificent for its finely grained detail.

Wordsworth Circle

One need not be a literary scholar to find this biography engaging, informative, and provocative, for it explores, via the life of a remarkable 18th and 19th century woman writer, still relevant aesthetic, political, religious, and gender issues.

The Year's Work in English Studies

This extraordinarily packed, fluidly written biography ought to influence scholars across Romantic studies.

Huntington Library Quarterly

Rewards readers whether they are selectively dipping in or perusing the work from cover to cover... McCarthy brings psychology to bear in provocative and insightful ways.

Studies in Romanticism

An excellent introduction not only to Barbauld herself but to the politics and culture of her time.

Religion in the Age of Enlightenment

Richly illustrated, compellingly argued, and elegantly written, McCarthy’s biography of Barbauld reminds us that, despite our lip-service topostmodern cynicism... transformative scholarship continues to be fundamentally 'Enlightenment' in its values, procedures, and rhetorical forms.

Journal of British Studies
One leaves this biography with an intimate sense not just of how Barbauld navigated her particular worlds but also of how her interventions shaped individuals and movements in Britain and overseas.

— Arianne Chernock

Women's Writing

McCarthy establishes Barbauld as a figure of major significance. His magnificent biography will draw many others to her, and give her a new and deserved prominence in Enlightenment and Romantic studies.

Age of Johnson

A review cannot do justice to the range covered by a biography of this magnitude. The biography synthesizes a staggering body of research into a tale well told.

Book Bargains and Previews
Scholars of British literature and women writers will welcome this important study of one of the eighteenth century's foremost writers.
Times Higher Education - Isobel Grundy

A biography to relish and remember.

London Review of Books - Seamus Perry

A compendious and admiring new biography.

Eighteenth-Century Studies - Lisa Vargo

McCarthy is true to both parts of his work's title: he not only gives us a comprehensive portrait of Anna Barbauld, but helpfully and skillfully places her voice within the social, political, and religious movements of her times. It is hard to imagine that his monumental work will be superseded anytime soon.

Journal of British Studies - Arianne Chernock

One leaves this biography with an intimate sense not just of how Barbauld navigated her particular worlds but also of how her interventions shaped individuals and movements in Britain and overseas.

Restoration and Eighteenth Century Theatre Research - Nichol Weizenbeck

McCarthy blends Barbauld's private, professional, and authorial lives seamlessly, affording readers a context rare in its comprehensiveness.... He accomplishes all of this with spirit, grace, and eloquence.

Guardian

A superb biography that brings a radical literary figure back into the picture... a thrilling, brilliant book.

Choice

Based on two decades of research and a real mastery of Romantic-era literary culture, the book provides authoritative information not only on Barbauld's life and works but also on Romantic-era politics, education, gender relations, dissenting religion, children's literature, radical politics, the booktrade, mental health, and so on... Marked by accessible prose and meticulous documentation, this will be the definitive biography of Barbauld for decades. Essential.

Faith and Freedom

The title makes an extraordinary claim -- that Anna Letitia Barbauld was a voice of and for the Enlightenment. How can this be said of a woman who, until this enthralling book was written, was known to so few? [The author] presents a thoroughly convincing case for saying it. He does this thanks to his extraordinary knowledge, not just of the life and work of Barbauld, but also of literature, culture and politics from her time (1743 to 1825) up to today.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801890161
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 12/19/2008
  • Pages: 792
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 2.30 (d)

Meet the Author

William McCarthy is professor emeritus of English at Iowa State University, co-editor of The Poems of Anna Letitia Barbauld, and author of Hester Thrale Piozzi: Portrait of a Literary Woman.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

Preface: "One of the Great Minds" March 1790

1 Ties of Kindred 1

2 Home at Kibworth 17

3 Soul-Building 38

4 Warrington 62

5 Miss Aikin 97

6 Land of Matrimony 124

7 Devotion 149

8 Enlightenment in a Suffolk Village 165

9 Mother Tongue 190

10 HowThey Lived 220

11 Pursuit of Happiness 240

12 Revolutions 260

13 Sins of the Nation 291

14 "Our Political Duties" 309

15 In Middle Age 348

16 Subjects Light and Grave 370

17 Racketing 389

18 The Highest Literary Character in England 409

19 Wounds 435

20 "Night, Gothic Night" 455

21 Legacy to Young Ladies 491

22 Good Morning 512

Afterword: Wisdom in Time of Need 530

App.: A The Aikin House in Kibworth 539

App.: B Rochemont Barbauld's Disorder 541

App.: C Iconography 545

App.: D Aikin-Barbauld Family Tree 549

Abbreviations Used in the Notes 551

Notes 553

Barbauld-Aikin Sources 675

General Bibliography 689

Index 699

Illustrations follow pagesand 358

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