Anna Letitia Barbauld: Selected Poetry and Prose

Introduction

Anna Laetitia Barbauld (/bɑrˈboʊld/, by herself possibly /bɑrˈboʊ/, as in French, née Aikin; 20 June 1743 – 9 March 1825) was a prominent English poet, essayist, literary critic, editor, and children's author.

A "woman of letters" who published in multiple genres, 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 pedagogy for more than a century.[1] Her essays demonstrated that it was possible for a woman to be publicly engaged in politics, and other women authors such as Elizabeth Benger emulated her.[2] Barbauld's literary career spanned numerous periods in British literary history: her work promoted the values of both the Enlightenment and Sensibility, and her poetry was foundational to the development of British Romanticism.[3] Barbauld was also a literary critic, and her anthology of 18th-century British novels helped establish the canon as known today.

Barbauld's career as a poet ended abruptly in 1812 with the publication of Eighteen Hundred and Eleven, which criticised Britain's participation in the Napoleonic Wars. Vicious reviews shocked Barbauld, and she published nothing else during her lifetime.[4] 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.[5]


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