Dissent and Romanticism
The Dissenting tradition into which Anna Laetitia Barbauld was born meant that she was exposed to political and intellectual debate from an early age. . Barbauld’s energetic and provocative career combined unorthodox political awareness and strong beliefs in the modernisation of education with poetry by turns fierce, and lyrical. Her radicalism encompassed opposition to slavery and war, the promotion of the political rights of Dissenters, and the questioning of traditional gender roles. The adjacent extract of her poem, ‘Life’, demonstrates Barbauld’s exploration of the metaphysics of the soul.
This is the first sustained study of a Dissenting family – the Aikins — from the 1740s to the 1860s. Essays by literary critics, historians of religion and science, and geographers explore and contextualize the achievements of this remarkable family, including John Aikin senior, tutor at the celebrated Warrington Academy, and his children, poet Anna Letitia Barbauld, and John Aikin junior, literary physician and editor. The latter's children in turn were leading professionals and writers in the early Victorian era. This study provides new perspectives on the social and cultural importance of the family and their circle - an untold story of collaboration and exchange, and a narrative which breaks down period boundaries to set Enlightenment and Victorian culture in dialogue.
Letitia Elizabeth Landon, better known by her pen initials L. E. L., was a poet and novelist active in the earlier part of the nineteenth century. She was a reviewer for the Literary Gazette in the 1820s, and published a number of ‘poetical sketches’ to accompany paintings and engravings by contemporary artists, an experience which she drew on when she became involved with producing gift books and annuals. Fisher’s Drawing Room Scrap-Book, on display here, contains poems that complement and reflect on a diverse range of artistic works. In her Preface, Landon described it as a ‘literary luxury, addressed chiefly to a young and gentler class of readers’, but also pointed out that the ‘expensive works’ from which the drawings were selected were now more accessible to an enthusiastic public.
This is a book about the biographical afterlives of the Romantic poets and the creation of literary biography as a popular form. It focuses on the Lives of six major poets of the period: Byron, Shelley, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Felicia Hemans, and Letitia Landon, published from the 1820s, by Thomas Moore, Mary Shelley, Thomas De Quincey, and others. It situates these within the context of the development of biography as a genre from the 1780s to the 1840s. Starting with Johnson, Boswell, and female collective Lives, it looks at how the market success of biography was built on its representation and publication of domestic life. In the 1820s and 30s biographers 'domesticated' Byron, Shelley, and other poets by situating them at home, opening up their (often scandalous) private lives to view, and bringing readers into intimate contact with greatness.