Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Guest Post by Anna: A Literary Canon of Women Writers, Part Ten: The Eighteenth Century

Echidne's note: Earlier parts of this series can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 ,Part 5, Part 6, Part 7,Part 8, and Part 9.)

Eliza Haywood (1693 – 25 February 1756) was an English writer, actor, and publisher. Haywood wrote and published over seventy works during her lifetime including fiction, drama, translations, poetry, conduct literature and periodicals. She is a significant figure of the 18th century as one of the important founders of the novel in English.

Haywood’s writing career began in 1719 with the first two installments of Love in Excess, a novel, and ended in the year she died with conduct books "The Wife and The Husband", and the biweekly periodical "The Young Lady". She wrote in several genres and many of her works were published anonymously. There is much of Haywood’s writing career that still remains unknown.

Haywood’s first novel, "Love in Excess or The Fatal Enquiry" (1719–1720) touches on themes of education and marriage. Termed a bodice-ripper by some, this novel is also notable for its treatment of the fallen woman. D’Elmonte, the novel's male protagonist, reassures one woman that she should not condemn herself: “There are times, madam”, he says “in which the wisest have not power over their own actions.” The fallen woman is given an unusually positive portrait.

"Fantomina; or Love in a Maze" (1724) is a short story about a woman who assumes the roles of a prostitute, a maid, a widow, and a Lady in order to repeatedly seduce a man named Beauplaisir. Schofield points out that, “Not only does she satisfy her own sexual inclinations, she smugly believes that “while he thinks to fool me, [he] is himself the only beguiled Person.” This novel asserts that women have some access to power in the social sphere, one of the recurring themes in Haywood’s work.

"The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless" (1751) is a sophisticated, multi-plot novel that has been deemed the first novel of female development in English. Betsy leaves her emotionally and financially abusive husband Munden and experiences independence for a time before she decides to marry again. "Betsy Thoughtless" represents an important change in the 18th century novel. It portrays a mistaken but intelligent and strong-willed woman who gives way to society’s pressures toward marriage. According to Backsheider, "Betsy Thoughtless" is a novel of marriage, rather than the more popular novel of courtship and thus foreshadows the type of domestic novel that would culminate in the 19th century such as Charlotte Brontë’s "Jane Eyre". Instead of concerning itself with attracting a partner well, "Betsy Thoughtless" is concerned with marrying well, and its heroine learns that giving way to the role of women in marriage can be fulfilling.

These works are widely available in English, and many of Haywood’s early works are available in “Fantomina and Other Works (Broadview Literary Texts)” by Eliza Haywood, Alexander Pettit, Margaret Case Croskery and Anna C. Patchias.

Françoise de Graffigny, née d'Issembourg Du Buisson d'Happoncourt (11 February 1695 - 12 December 1758) was a French novelist, playwright and salon hostess. Initially famous as the author of "Lettres d'une Péruvienne", a feminist novel published in 1747, she became the world's best-known living woman writer after the success of her sentimental comedy, "Cénie", in 1750. But her reputation as a dramatist suffered when her second play at the Comédie-Française, "La Fille d'Aristide", was a flop in 1758, and even her novel fell out of favor after 1830.

From then until the last third of the twentieth century, she was almost forgotten, but thanks to new scholarship and the interest in women writers generated by the feminist movement, Françoise de Graffigny is now regarded as one of the major French writers of the eighteenth century. "Lettres d'une Péruvienne" is available in English as “Letters from a Peruvian Woman (Texts & Translations)” by Francoise De Graffigny, translated by David Kornacker.

Fukuda Chiyo-ni (also known as Kaga no Chiyo) (1703-1775) was a Japanese poet of the Edo period, widely regarded as one of the greatest female haiku poets. She worked in a time when haiku was largely a male domain, unlike today.

Born in Matto, Kaga Province (now Hakusan, Ishikawa Prefecture) as a daughter of a picture framer, Chiyo-ni began writing haiku poetry aged 7. By the age of 17, she had become very popular all over Japan for her poetry. Her poems mostly deal with nature. Chiyo-ni's teachers were two students of Bashō, and she stayed true to his style, although she did develop on her own as an independent figure. At the age of fifty-two Chiyo-ni became a nun, shaved her head, and changed her name to Soen (Simple Garden). She is perhaps best known for this haiku:

morning glory!
the well bucket-entangled,
I ask for water
(trans. Donegan and Ishibashi)

Shokouji temple in Hakusan contains a display of her personal effects. Some of her poems can be found in “Chiyo-ni: Woman Haiku Master”, translated by Patricia Donegan and Yoshie Ishibashi.

Hannah Cowley (14 March 1743 – 11 March 1809) was an English dramatist and poet. Although Cowley’s plays and poetry did not enjoy wide popularity after the nineteenth century, critic Melinda Finberg rates Cowley as “one of the foremost playwrights of the late eighteenth century” whose “skill in writing fluid, sparkling dialogue and creating sprightly, memorable comic characters compares favourably with her better-known contemporaries, Goldsmith and Sheridan.”

Cowley’s plays were produced frequently during her lifetime. The major themes of her plays, including her first, "The Runaway" (1776), and her major hit which is being revived, "The Belle's Stratagem" (1780) revolve around marriage and how women strive to overcome the injustices imposed by family life and social custom. Her works are available in English as “The Works Of Mrs. Cowley, Dramas And Poems,” by Hannah Cowley.

Anna Laetitia Barbauld (1743 – 9 March 1825) was a prominent English poet, essayist, literary critic, editor, and children's author. Barbauld had a successful writing career at a time when female professional writers were rare. She was a noted teacher at the Palgrave Academy and an innovative children's writer; her primers provided a model for teaching for more than a century. Her essays demonstrated that it was possible for a woman to be publicly engaged in politics, and other women authors emulated her. Even more important, her poetry was foundational to the development of Romanticism in England. Barbauld was also a literary critic, and her anthology of 18th-century British novels helped establish the canon as known today.

Barbauld's literary career ended abruptly in 1812 with the publication of her poem "Eighteen Hundred and Eleven", which criticized Britain's participation in the Napoleonic Wars. Vicious reviews shocked Barbauld and she published nothing else during her lifetime.. Her reputation was further damaged when many of the Romantic poets she had inspired in the heyday of the French Revolution turned against her in their later, more conservative, years. Barbauld was remembered only as a pedantic children's writer during the 19th century, and largely forgotten during the 20th century, but the rise of feminist literary criticism in the 1980s renewed interest in her works and restored her place in literary history.

Her complete poems are available in English as “The Poems of Anna Letitia Barbauld,” by Anna Letitia Barbauld, William McCarthy, and Elizabeth Kraft. Also relevant is “Anna Letitia Barbauld: Selected Poetry and Prose (Broadview Literary Texts),” by Anna Letitia Barbauld, William McCarthy, and Elizabeth Kraft.

Charlotte Turner Smith (4 May 1749 – 28 October 1806) was an English Romantic poet and novelist. She initiated a revival of the English sonnet, helped establish the conventions of Gothic fiction, and wrote political novels of sensibility.

Smith was born into a wealthy family and received a typical education for a woman during the late 18th century. However, her father's reckless spending forced her to marry early. In a marriage that she later described as prostitution, she was given by her father to the violent and profligate Benjamin Smith. Their marriage was deeply unhappy, although they had twelve children together. Charlotte joined Benjamin in debtor's prison, where she wrote her first book of poetry, "Elegiac Sonnets". Its success allowed her to help pay for Benjamin's release. Benjamin's father attempted to leave money to Charlotte and her children upon his death, but legal technicalities prevented her from ever acquiring it. Charlotte Smith eventually left Benjamin and began writing to support their children.

Smith's struggle to provide for her children and her frustrated attempts to gain legal protection as a woman provided themes for her poetry and novels; she included portraits of herself and her family in her novels as well as details about her life in her prefaces. She published ten novels, three books of poetry, four children's books, and other assorted works over the course of her career. She always saw herself as a poet first and foremost, however, as poetry was considered the most exalted form of literature at the time. Smith's poetry and prose was praised by contemporaries such as Romantic poets William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge as well as novelist Walter Scott.

But after 1798, Smith's popularity waned and by 1803 she was destitute and ill—she could barely hold a pen. She had to sell her books to pay off her debts. In 1806, Smith died. Largely forgotten by the middle of the 19th century, her works have now been republished and she is recognized as an important Romantic writer. Her work, including "Elegaic Sonnets", is widely available in English.

Frances Burney (13 June 1752 – 6 January 1840), also known as Fanny Burney and, after her marriage, as Madame d’Arblay, was an English novelist, diarist and playwright. Her best known work, "Evelina", portrays the English upper middle class from the perspective of a seventeen-year-old woman who has reached marriageable age. A comic and witty novel, the work is ultimately a satire of the kind of oppressive masculine values that shaped a young woman’s life in the eighteenth century, as well as of other forms of social hypocrisy. Encyclopedia Britannica describes "Evelina" as a "landmark in the development of the novel of manners.” It is available in English as “Evelina (Oxford World's Classics)”, by Frances Burney, Edward A. Bloom, and Vivien Jones.

Phillis Wheatley (1753 – December 5, 1784) was the first published African American poet and the first African-American woman whose writings were published.

Born in Gambia, Senegal, she was made a slave at age seven. She was the slave of the Wheatley family of Boston, though they did teach her to read and write English, and helped encourage her poetry. In 1768, Wheatley wrote "To the King's Most Excellent Majesty" in which she praised George III for repealing the Stamp Act. However, as the American Revolution gained strength, Wheatley's writing turned to themes from the point of view of the colonists. In 1770 Wheatley wrote a poetic tribute to George Whitefield that received widespread acclaim. Wheatley's poetry overwhelmingly revolves around Christian themes, with many poems dedicated to famous personalities. Over one-third consist of elegies, the remainder being on religious, classical, and abstract themes.

Many white Americans of the time found it hard to believe that an African woman could write poetry, and Wheatley had to defend her literary ability in court in 1772. She was examined by a group of Boston luminaries, including John Erving, Reverend Charles Chauncey, John Hancock, Thomas Hutchinson, the governor of Massachusetts, and his lieutenant governor Andrew Oliver. They concluded she had written the poems ascribed to her and signed an attestation which was published in the preface to her book "Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral", which was published in Aldgate, London in 1773. The book was published in London because publishers in Boston had refused to publish the text.

The publication of Wheatley's "Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral" brought her fame, with figures such as George Washington praising her work. Voltaire stated in a letter to a friend that Wheatley had proved that black people could write poetry. John Paul Jones asked a fellow officer to deliver some of his personal writings to "Phillis the African favorite of the Nine [muses] and Apollo." Wheatley also visited England for five weeks accompanying her master's son and was praised in a poem by fellow African-American poet Jupiter Hammon.

Wheatley was emancipated by her owners after both her poetic success and the death of her master, and she soon married. However, when her husband was imprisoned for debt in 1784, Wheatley fell into poverty and died of illness. Her collected work, including her letters as well as her poetry, is available in English in “Phillis Wheatley, Complete Writings”, by Phillis Wheatley.

Joanna Baillie (11 September 1762 – 23 February 1851) was a Scottish poet and dramatist. Baillie was very well known during her lifetime and intended her plays for the stage, not to be simply read aloud, unusual for a woman in those days. Her tragedies had an influence on Edgar Allan Poe, and many of her contemporaries placed her above all women poets except Sappho. She hosted a literary society in her cottage at Hampstead.

Baillie took seriously the power her eminence gave her, and authors down on their luck, women writers, and working-class poets like the shoemaker poet, John Struthers, applied to her for assistance. She wrote letters, drew on all her contacts, and used her knowledge of the literary world either to advise or to further a less well-connected writer. In 1823, she edited and published by subscription a collection of poems by many of the leading writers of the day, in support of a widowed old school friend with a family of daughters to support.

Some of her works are available for free at Project Gutenberg: A book “The Dramatic and Poetical Works of Joanna Baillie, complete in one volume” is also available.

Ann Radcliffe (9 July 1764 – 7 February 1823) was an English author, and considered a pioneer of the gothic novel (although The Castle of Otranto, by Horace Walpole, is generally regarded as the first gothic novel).

Her style is romantic in its vivid descriptions of landscapes, and long travel scenes, yet the Gothic element is obvious through her use of the supernatural. It was her technique of explained Gothicism, the final non-supernatural explanation of supposed ghosts etc, that helped the Gothic novel achieve respectability in the 1790s. Throughout her work traditional morals are asserted, yet women’s rights are advocated for, and reason prevails. Her works also had an influence on Jane Austen, the Marquis de Sade, and Sir Walter Scott. Paul Féval, père used her as his protagonist in the novel La Ville Vampire.

Her works are widely available in English; for example, there is “The Mysteries of Udolpho (Oxford World's Classics),” by Ann Radcliffe, Bonamy Dobrée, and Terry Castle.

Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein (22 April 1766 – 14 July 1817), commonly known as Madame de Staël, was a French-speaking Swiss author living in Paris and abroad. She influenced literary tastes in Europe at the turn of the 19th century. Her novels were bestsellers and her literary criticism was highly influential, and when she was allowed to live in Paris she greatly encouraged any political dissident from King Louis's regime.

Auguste Comte included Madame Stael in his Calendar of Great Men [sic] and in a book with the same name, Comte's disciple Frederic Harrison wrote about Stael and her works, "In 'Delphine' a woman, for the first time since the Revolution, reopened the romance of the heart which was in vogue in the century preceding.” Her works are widely available in English.

Susanna Centlivre (born Susanna Freeman, also known professionally as Susanna Carroll) was an English poet, actress and one of the premier dramatists of the 18th century. During her long career at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane she became known as the Second Woman of the English Stage after Aphra Behn.

Her plays were so celebrated that many famous actors and actresses of the 18th and 19th centuries won their fame through their performances of her characters; perhaps the best known example is David Garrick who chose to end his acting career as Don Felix from "The Wonder", a role that had previously brought him critical acclaim.

She was lampooned as having a supposedly mannish appearance (among other faults), most famously by Alexander Pope in several pieces, but regardless of her peers’ opinions, her plays would be staged for over 150 years after her death.

Overall, Centlivre was a powerful influence on society as a female intellect and her foundation created another early stepping stone for female writers to continue to push the limits of traditional role as her works allowed for the progress of femininity by establishing the first public thoughts of equality between sexes. Her works are widely available in English.