In Poetic Sisters, Deborah Kennedy explores the personal and literary connections among five early eighteenth-century women poets: Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea; Elizabeth Singer Rowe; Frances Seymour, Countess of Hertford; Sarah Dixon; and Mary Jones. Richly illustrated and elegantly written, this book brings the eighteenth century to life, presenting a diverse range of material from serious religious poems to amusing verses on domestic life. The work of Anne Finch, author of “A Nocturnal Reverie,” provides...
In Poetic Sisters, Deborah Kennedy explores the personal and literary connections among five early eighteenth-century women poets: Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea; Elizabeth Singer Rowe; Frances Seymour, Countess of Hertford; Sarah Dixon; and Mary Jones. Richly illustrated and elegantly written, this book brings the eighteenth century to life, presenting a diverse range of material from serious religious poems to amusing verses on domestic life. The work of Anne Finch, author of “A Nocturnal Reverie,” provides the cornerstone for this well informed study. But it was Elizabeth Rowe who achieved international fame for her popular religious writings. Both women influenced the Countess of Hertford, who wrote about the beauty of nature centuries before modern Earth Day celebrations. Sarah Dixon, a middle-class writer from Kent, had a strong moral outlook and stood up for those whose voices needed to be heard, including her own. Finally, Mary Jones, who lived in Oxford, was praised for both her genius and her sense of humour. Poetic Sisters presents a fascinating female literary network, revealing the bonds of a shared vocation that unites these writers. It also traces their literary afterlife from the eighteenth century to the present day, with references to contemporary culture, demonstrating how their work resonates with new generations of readers.
Poetic Sisters is a wonderfully accurate and clear map of the terrain of women’s poetry in early eighteenth-century England. . .Professor Kennedy’s book is classic literary criticism, one might almost say “Johnsonian” in that word’s very best senses. . . .Kennedy’s book is a testament to uncommon research and scholarship in discovering letters and searching manuscripts. And the book is a gift of accessibility to readers in its reprinting the full text of many of her poets’ poems. Poetic Sisters is a major contribution to our understanding of early eighteenth-century English poetry.
This articulate, accessible book focuses on the lives, careers, legacies, and most importantly the verses of five women poets of the early 18th century: Anne Finch, Elizabeth Rowe, the Countess of Hertford, Sarah Dixon, and Mary Jones. Kennedy (Saint Mary's Univ., Halifax, Nova Scotia) builds on the work of critics and scholars such as Roger Lonsdale, Paula Backscheider, Janet Todd, William McCarthy, Isobel Grundy, Margaret Doody, and others who, over the past 25 years, have established the importance of women writers of this period and explored their poetic achievement. The recovery and recuperation of 18th-century women poets is itself an achievement that merits consideration both on its own terms and for literary history's sake. Kennedy's study is significant in its depth of treatment of these five poets, presenting each in view of her distinctive poetic voice and resonances with other poets of the time, including one another. Engagingly written, beautifully illustrated (visually and poetically), this study should attract a new generation of critics and scholars who will find the author's contextualization of the material and interpretations of individual poems fresh, provocative, and nuanced. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty and general readers.
Deborah Kennedy is professor of English at Saint Mary’s University, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, where she specializes in British literature of the eighteenth century and the romantic period. She is the author of Helen Maria Williams and the Age of Revolution (Bucknell University Press) and she has published on a variety of subjects, including women’s literary history, women and popular music, eighteenth-century art history, and the British poetic tradition.
List of Illustrations
Chapter One: Introducing the Poetic Sisters
Chapter Two: “She Triumphs with a Song”: The Poetry of Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea
Chapter Three: Singing Her Heart Out: Elizabeth Rowe
Chapter Four: The Countess of Hertford and the Poetry of the English Landscape
Chapter Five: Sarah Dixon, the Kentish Poetess
Chapter Six: Mary Jones, the Oxford Poet
Chapter Seven: Sisterly Muses