Anna Laetitia Barbauld

right|thumb|Wedgwood cameo of Barbauld from 1775] Anna Laetitia Barbauld (pronEng|bɑrˈbɔld, by herself possibly IPA| [bɑrˈbo] , as in French) ("née" Aikin) (20 June 1743 – 9 March 1825) was a prominent eighteenth-century English poet, essayist, 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 celebrated Palgrave Academy and an innovative children's writer; her famous primers provided a model for pedagogy for more than a century. [McCarthy, William. “Mother of All Discourses: Anna Barbauld’s Lessons for Children.” "Culturing the Child, 1690–1914: Essays in Memory of Mitzi Myers". Ed. Donelle Ruwe. Lanham, MD: The Children’s Literature Association and the Scarecrow Press, Inc. (2005).] Her essays demonstrated that it was possible for a woman to be publicly engaged in politics, and other women authors emulated her. [ Armstrong, Isobel. "The Gush of the Feminine: How Can we Read Women's Poetry of the Romantic Period?" "Romantic Women Writers: Voices and Countervoices". Eds. Paula R. Feldman and Theresa M. Kelley. Hanover: University Press of New England (1995) and Anne K. Mellor. “A Criticism of Their Own: Romantic Women Literary Critics.” "Questioning Romanticism". Ed. John Beer. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press (1995).] Even more importantly, her poetry was foundational to the development of Romanticism in England. [Janowitz, Anne. "Women Romantic Poets: Anna Barbauld and Mary Robinson". Tavistock: Northcote House (2003).] Barbauld was also a literary critic, and her anthology of eighteenth-century British novels helped establish the canon as we know it 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. The vicious reviews shocked Barbauld and she published nothing else within her lifetime. [Barbauld, Anna Letitia. "Anna Letitia Barbauld: Selected Poetry and Prose". Eds. William McCarthy and Elizabeth Kraft. Peterborough: Broadview Press Ltd. (2002), 160.] 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 nineteenth century, and largely forgotten during the twentieth century, but the rise of feminist literary criticism in the 1980s renewed interest in her works and restored her place in literary history. [McCarthy, William. “A ‘High-Minded Christian Lady’: The Posthumous Reception of Anna Letitia Barbauld.” "Romanticism and Women Poets: Opening the Doors of Reception". Eds. Harriet Kramer Linkin and Stephen C. Behrendt. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, (1999).]

Early life

Barbauld was born on 20 June 1743 at Kibworth Harcourt in Leicestershire, England. Her father, Reverend John Aikin, was headmaster of the Dissenting Kibworth Academy and minister at a nearby Presbyterian church. Her family's residence at Kibworth afforded Barbauld the opportunity to learn Latin, Greek, French, Italian, and many other subjects deemed unsuitable for women at the time. Barbauld’s penchant for study worried her mother, who expected her to end up a spinster because of her intellectualism; the two were never as close as Barbauld and her father. [Rodgers, Betsy. "Georgian Chronicle: Mrs Barbauld & her Family". London: Methuen & Co. Ltd. (1958), 30.] Yet Barbauld's mother was proud of her accomplishments and in later years wrote of her daughter: “I once indeed knew a little girl who was as eager to learn as her instructors could be to teach her, and who at two years old could read sentences and little stories in her wise book, roundly, without spelling; and in half a year more could read as well as most women; but I never knew such another, and I believe never shall.” [Qtd. in Anna Letitia Le Breton, "Memoir of Mrs. Barbauld, including Letters and Notices of Her Family and Friends". London: George Bell and Sons (1874), 23–4.]

In 1758, the family moved to the soon-to-be-famous Warrington Academy, in Warrington, where Barbauld’s father had been offered a teaching position. It drew many luminaries of the day, such as the natural philosopher and theologian Joseph Priestley, and came to be known as “the Athens of the North” for its stimulating intellectual atmosphere. [Rodgers, 38.] One other luminary may have been the French revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat; school records suggest he was a “French master” there in the 1770s. He may also have been a suitor to the beautiful, accomplished Barbauld; he allegedly wrote to John Aikin declaring his intention to become an English citizen and to marry her. [Rodgers, 44.] Archibald Hamilton Rowan also fell in love with Barbauld and described her as, "possessed of great beauty, distinct traces of which she retained to the latest of her life. Her person was slender, her complexion exquisitely fair with the bloom of perfect health; her features regular and elegant, and her dark blue eyes beamed with the light of wit and fancy.” [Qtd. in Rodgers, 51–2.] Despite her mother's anxiety, Barbauld received many offers of marriage around this time—all of which she turned down.

First literary successes and marriage

In 1773, Barbauld brought out her first book of poems, after her friends had praised them and convinced her to publish. [Rodgers, 57.] The collection, entitled simply "Poems", went through four editions in just one year and surprised Barbauld by its success. [Rodgers, 57.] Barbauld became a respected literary figure in England on the reputation of "Poems" alone. The same year she and her brother, John Aikin, jointly published "Miscellaneous Pieces in Prose", which was also well-received. The essays in it (most of which were by Barbauld) were favorably compared to Samuel Johnson's. [Rodgers, 61–2.]

In May 1774, despite some "misgivings", Barbauld married Rochemont Barbauld, the grandson of a French Huguenot and a former pupil at Warrington. According to Barbauld's niece, Lucy Aikin:

After the wedding, the couple moved to Suffolk, near where Rochemont had been offered a congregation and a school for boys. [Rodgers, 63–4.] Barbauld took this time and rewrote some of the psalms, a common pastime in the eighteenth century, publishing them as "Devotional Pieces Compiled from the Psalms and the Book of Job". Attached to this work is her essay “Thoughts on the Devotional Taste, on Sects and on Establishments”, which explains her theory of religious feeling and the problems inherent in the institutionalization of religion.

It seems that Barbauld and her husband were concerned that they would never have a child of their own and in 1775, after only a year of marriage, Barbauld suggested to her brother that they adopt one of his children:quote |I am sensible it is not a small thing we ask; nor can it be easy for a parent to part with a child. This I would say, from a number, one may more easily be spared. Though it makes a very material difference in happiness whether a person has children or no children, it makes, I apprehend, little or none whether he has three, or four; five, or six; because four or five are enow ["sic"] to exercise all his whole stock of care and affection. We should gain, but you would not lose. [Qtd. in Rodgers, 68.]

Eventually her brother conceded and the couple adopted Charles; it was for him that Barbauld wrote her most famous books: "Lessons for Children" (1778–9) and "Hymns in Prose for Children" (1781).

Palgrave Academy

Barbauld and her husband spent eleven years teaching at Palgrave Academy in Suffolk. Early on, Barbauld was not only responsible for running her own household but also the school’s—she was accountant, maid, and housekeeper. [McCarthy, William. “The Celebrated Academy at Palgrave: A Documentary History of Anna Letitia Barbauld’s School.” "The Age of Johnson: A Scholarly Annual" 8 (1997), 282.] The school opened with only eight boys but when the Barbaulds left in 1785, around forty were enrolled, a testament to the excellent reputation the school had acquired. [McCarthy, "Academy," 284–5.] The Barbaulds’ educational philosophy attracted Dissenters as well as Anglicans. Palgrave replaced the strict discipline of traditional schools such as Eton, which often used corporal punishment, with a system of “fines and jobations” and even, it seems likely, “juvenile trials,” that is, trials run by and for the students themselves. [McCarthy, "Academy," 292.] Moreover, instead of the traditional classical studies, the school offered a practical curriculum that stressed science and the modern languages. Barbauld herself taught the foundational subjects of reading and religion to the youngest boys and geography, history, composition and rhetoric, and science to higher grade levels. [McCarthy, "Academy," 298.] She was a dedicated teacher, producing a “weekly chronicle” for the school and writing theatrical pieces for the students to perform. [McCarthy, "Academy," 306.] Barbauld had a profound effect on many of her students; one who went on to great success, William Taylor, a preeminent scholar of German literature, referred to Barbauld as “the mother of his mind.” [Qtd. in Rodgers, 75.]

Political involvement and Hampstead

In September 1785, the Barbaulds left Palgrave for a tour of France; Rochemont’s mental health had been deteriorating and he was no longer able to carry out his teaching duties. [Rodgers, 92.] In 1787, they moved to Hampstead where Rochemont was asked to head a Presbyterian chapel. It was here that Barbauld became close friends with Joanna Baillie, the playwright. Although no longer in charge of a school, the Barbaulds did not abandon their commitment to education; they often had one or two pupils living with them, who had been recommend by personal friends. [Rodgers, 101–2.]

It was during this time, the heyday of the French Revolution, that Barbauld published her most radical political pieces. From 1787 to 1790, Charles James Fox attempted to convince the House of Commons to pass a law granting Dissenters full citizenship rights. When this bill was defeated for the third time, Barbauld wrote one of her most passionate pamphlets, "An Address to the Opposers of the Repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts". Readers were shocked to discover that such a well-reasoned argument should come from a woman. In 1791, after William Wilberforce's attempt to outlaw the slave trade failed, Barbauld published her "Epistle to William Wilberforce Esq. On the Rejection of the Bill for Abolishing the Slave Trade", which not only lamented the fate of the slaves but also warned of the cultural and social degeneration the British could expect if they did not abandon slavery. In 1792, she continued this theme of national responsibility in an anti-war sermon entitled "Sins of Government, Sins of the Nation" which argued that each individual is responsible for the actions of the nation: “We are called upon to repent of national sins, because we can help them, and because we ought to help them.” [Barbauld, Anna Letitia. "Sins of Government, Sins of the Nation." "Anna Letitia Barbauld: Selected Poetry and Prose". Eds. William McCarthy and Elizabeth Kraft. Ontario: Broadview Press, Ltd. (2002), 300.]

toke Newington and the end of a literary career

In 1802, the Barbaulds moved to Stoke Newington where Rochemont took over the pastoral duties of the Chapel at Newington Green. Barbauld herself was happy to be nearer her brother, John, because her husband’s mind was rapidly failing. [Rodgers, 128–9.] Rochemont developed a “violent antipathy to his wife and he was liable to fits of insane fury directed against her. One day at dinner he seized a knife and chased her round the table so that she only saved herself by jumping out of the window.” [Rodgers, 136; Le Breton, 121–2.] Such scenes repeated themselves to Barbauld’s great sadness and real danger, but she refused to leave him. Rochemont drowned himself in 1808 and Barbauld was overcome with grief. When Barbauld returned to writing, she produced the radical poem "Eighteen Hundred and Eleven" (1812) that depicted England as a ruin. It was reviewed so viciously that Barbauld never published another work within her lifetime, although it is now often viewed by scholars as her greatest poetic achievement. [Rodgers, 139–141.] Barbauld died in 1825, a renowned writer, and was buried in the family vault in St Mary's, Stoke Newington. After Barbauld’s death, a marble tablet was erected in the Newington Green Chapel with the following inscription:
"In Memory of" "ANNA LETITIA BARBAULD,""Daughter of John Aikin, D.D.""And Wife of""The Rev. Rochemont Barbauld,""Formerly the Respected Minister of this Congregation.""She was born at Kibworth in Leicesterhsire, 20th June, 1743,""and died at Stoke Newington, 9th March, 1825.""Endowed by the Giver of all Good""With Wit, Genius, Poetic Talent, and a Vigorous Understanding""She Employed these High Gifts""in Promoting the Cause of Humanity, Peace, and Justice,""of Civil and Religious Liberty,""of Pure, Ardent, and Affectionate Devotion.""Let the Young, Nurtured by her Writings in the Pure Spirit""of Christian Morality;""Let those of Maturer Years, Capable of Appreciating""the Acuteness, the Brilliant Fancy, and Sound Reasoning""of her Literary Compositions;""Let the Surviving few who shared her Delightful""and Instructive Conversation,""Bear Witness""That this Monument Records""No Exaggerated Praise." [Le Breton, 197.]


At her death, Barbauld was lauded in the "Newcastle Magazine" as “unquestionably the first [i.e., best] of our female poets, and one of the most eloquent and powerful of our prose writers” and the "Imperial Magazine" declared “so long as letters shall be cultivated in Britain, or wherever the English language shall be known, so long will the name of this lady be respected.” [Qtd. in McCarthy, "Posthumous Reception," 165.] She was favorably compared to both Joseph Addison and Samuel Johnson, no mean feat for a woman writer in the eighteenth century. [McCarthy, "Posthumous Reception," 166.] But by 1925 she was remembered only as a moralizing writer for children, if that. It was not until the advent of feminist literary criticism within the academy in the 1970s and 1980s that Barbauld finally began to be included in literary history.

Barbauld’s remarkable disappearance from the literary landscape took place for a number of reasons. One of the most important was the disdain heaped upon her by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth, poets who in their youthful, radical days had looked to her poetry for inspiration, but in their later, conservative years dismissed her work. Once these poets had become canonized, their opinions held sway. [McCarthy, "Posthumous Reception," 167–8.] Moreover, the intellectual ferment that Barbauld was an important part of—particularly at the Dissenting academies—had, by the end of the nineteenth century, come to be associated with the “philistine” middle class, as Matthew Arnold put it. The reformist eighteenth-century middle class was later held responsible for the excesses and abuses of the industrial age. [McCarthy, "Posthumous Reception," 169.]

As literary studies developed into a discipline at the end of the nineteenth century, the story of the origins of Romanticism in England emerged along with it; according to this version of literary history, Coleridge and Wordsworth were the dominant poets of the age. [McCarthy, "Posthumous Reception," 174–5.] This view held sway for almost a century. Even with the advent of feminist criticism in the 1970s, Barbauld still did not receive her due. As Margaret Ezell explains, feminist critics wanted to resurrect a particular kind of woman—one who was angry, one who resisted the gender roles of her time, and one who attempted to create a sisterhood with other women. [McCarthy, "Posthumous Reception," 182.] Barbauld did not easily fit into these categories and it was not until Romanticism and its canon began to be reexamined through a deep reassessment of feminism itself that a picture emerged of the vibrant voice Barbauld had been.

Literary analysis


Barbauld’s poetry, which addresses a wide range of topics, has been read primarily by feminist literary critics interested in recovering women writers who were important in their own time but who have been forgotten by literary history. Isobel Armstrong's work represents one way to do such scholarship; she argues that Barbauld, like other Romantic women poets:

...neither consented to the idea of a special feminine discourse nor accepted an account of themselves as belonging to the realm of the nonrational. They engaged with two strategies to deal with the problem of affective discourse. First, they used the customary ‘feminine’ forms and languages, but they turned them to analytical account and used them to think with. Second, they challenged the male philosophical traditions that led to a demeaning discourse of feminine experience and remade those traditions. [Armstrong, 15–6.]
In her subsequent analysis of “Inscription for an Ice-House” she points to Barbauld’s challenge of Edmund Burke's characterization of the sublime and the beautiful and Adam Smith's economic theories in the "Wealth of Nations" as evidence for this interpretation. [Armstrong, 18; 22–3.]

The work of Marlon Ross and Anne K. Mellor represents a second way to apply the insights of feminist theory to the recovery of women writers. They argue that Barbauld and other Romantic women poets carved out a distinctive feminine voice in the literary sphere. As a woman and a Dissenter, Barbauld had a unique perspective on society, according to Ross, and it was this specific position that "obligated" her to publish social commentary. [Ross, Marlon B. “Configurations of Feminine Reform: The Woman Writers and the Tradition of Dissent.” "Re-visioning Romanticism: British Women Writers, 1776–1837". Eds. Carol Shiner Wilson and Joel Haefner. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press (1994), 93.] But, Ross points out, women were in a double bind: “they could choose to speak politics in nonpolitical modes, and thus risk greatly diminishing the clarity and pointedness of their political passion, or they could choose literary modes that were overtly political while trying to infuse them with a recognizable ‘feminine’ decorum, again risking a softening of their political agenda.” [Ross, 94.] Therefore Barbauld and other Romantic women poets often wrote “occasional poems.” These poems had traditionally commented, often satirically, on national events, but by the end of the eighteenth century they were increasingly serious and personal. Women wrote sentimental poems, a style then much in vogue, on personal occasions such as the birth of a child and argued that in commenting on the small occurrences of daily life, they would establish a moral foundation for the nation. [Ross, 96–97.] Scholars such as Ross and Mellor maintain that this adaptation of existing styles and genres is one way that female poets created a feminine Romanticism.

Political essays and poems

Barbauld’s most significant political texts are: "An Address to the Opposers of the Repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts" (1790), "Epistle to William Wilberforce on the Rejection of the Bill for Abolishing the Slave Trade" (1791), "Sins of Government, Sins of the Nation" (1793), and "Eighteen Hundred and Eleven" (1812). As Harriet Guest explains, “the theme Barbauld’s essays of the 1790s repeatedly return to is that of the constitution of the public as a religious, civic, and national body, and she is always concerned to emphasize the continuity between the rights of private individuals and those of the public defined in capaciously inclusive terms.” [Guest, Harriet. "Small Change: Women, Learning, Patriotism, 1750–1810". Chicago: University of Chicago Press (2000), 235.]

For three years, from 1787 to 1790, Dissenters had been attempting to convince Parliament to repeal the Test and Corporation Acts which limited the civil rights of Dissenters. After the repeal was voted down for the third time, Barbauld burst onto the public stage after “nine years of silence.” [McCarthy and Kraft, 261.] Her highly-charged pamphlet is written in a biting and sarcastic tone; it opens, “we thank you for the compliment paid the Dissenters, when you suppose that the moment they are eligible to places of power and profit, all such places will at once be filled with them.” [Barbauld, Anna Letitia. “An Address to the Opposers of the Repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts.” "Anna Letitia Barbauld: Selected Poetry and Prose". Eds. McCarthy and Kraft. Peterborough: Broadview Press Ltd. (2002), 263.] She argues that Dissenters deserve the same rights as any other men: “We claim it as men, we claim it as citizens, we claim it as good subjects.” [Barbauld, “An Appeal,” 266.] Moreover, she contends that it is precisely the isolation forced on Dissenters by others that marks them out, not anything inherent in their form of worship. [Barbauld, "An Appeal," 269–70.] Finally, appealing to British patriotism, she maintains that the French cannot be allowed to outstrip the English in liberty. [Barbauld, "An Appeal," 278–9.]

In the following year, 1791, after one of William Wilberforce's many efforts to suppress the slave trade failed to pass Parliament, Barbauld wrote her "Epistle to William Wilberforce on the Rejection of the Bill for Abolishing the Slave Trade". In it, she calls Britain to account for the sin of slavery; in harsh tones, she condemns the “Avarice” of a country which is content to allow its wealth and prosperity to be supported by the labor of enslaved human beings. Moreover, she draws a picture of the plantation mistress and master that reveals all of the failings of the “colonial enterprise: [an] indolent, voluptuous, monstrous woman" and a "degenerate, enfeebled man.” [Kaul, Suvir. "Poems of Nation, Anthems of Empire: English Verse in the Long Eighteenth Century". Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press (2000), 262.]

In 1793, when the British government called on the nation to fast in honor of the war, anti-war Dissenters such as Barbauld were left with a moral quandary: “obey the order and violate their consciences by praying for success in a war they disapproved? observe the Fast, but preach against the war? defy the Proclamation and refuse to take any part in the Fast?” [McCarthy and Kraft, 297.] Barbauld took this opportunity to write a sermon, "Sins of Government, Sins of the Nation", on the moral responsibility of the individual; for her, each individual is responsible for the actions of the nation because he or she constitutes part of the nation. The essay attempts to determine what the proper role of the individual is in the state and while she argues that “insubordination” can undermine a government, she does admit that there are lines of “conscience” that one cannot cross in obeying a government. [Barbauld, “Sins of Government, Sins of the Nation," 316–7.] The text is a classic consideration of the idea of an “unjust war.”

In "Eighteen Hundred and Eleven" (1812), written after Britain had been at war with France for a decade and was on the brink of losing the Napoleonic Wars, Barbauld presented her readers with a shocking Juvenalian satire; she argued that the British empire was waning and the American empire was waxing. It is to America that Britain’s wealth and fame will now go, she contended, and Britain will become nothing but an empty ruin. She tied this decline directly to Britain’s participation in the Napoleonic Wars::"And think’st thou, Britain, still to sit at ease,":"An island Queen amidst thy subject seas,":"While the vext billows, in their distant roar,":"But soothe thy slumbers, and but kiss thy shore?":"To sport in wars, while danger keeps aloof,":"Thy grassy turf unbruised by hostile hoof?":"So sing thy flatterers; but, Britain, know,":"Thou who hast shared the guilt must share the woe.":"Nor distant is the hour; low murmurs spread,":"And whispered fears, creating what they dread;":"Ruin, as with an earthquake shock, is here" (lines 39–49) This pessimistic view of the future was, not surprisingly, poorly received; “reviews, whether in liberal or conservative magazines, ranged from cautious to patronizingly negative to outrageously abusive.” [McCarthy and Kraft, 160.] Barbauld, stunned by the reaction, retreated from the public eye. Even when Britain was on the verge of winning the war, Barbauld could not be joyous. She wrote to a friend: “I do not know how to rejoice at this victory, splendid as it is, over Buonaparte [sic] , when I consider the horrible waste of life, the mass of misery, which such gigantic combats must occasion." [Qtd. in Le Breton, 132.]

Children's literature

Barbauld’s "Lessons for Children" and "Hymns in Prose for Children" were a revolution in children’s literature. For the first time, the needs of the child reader were seriously considered. Barbauld demanded that her books be printed in large type with wide margins so that children could easily read them and, even more importantly, she developed a style of “informal dialogue between parent and child” that would dominate children’s literature for a generation. [McCarthy, “Mother of All Discourses," 88–9.] In "Lessons for Children", a four-volume, age-adapted reading primer, Barbauld employs the concept of a mother teaching her son. More than likely, many of the events in these stories were inspired by Barbauld’s experience of teaching her own son, Charles. But this series is far more than a way to acquire literacy—it also introduces the reader to “elements of society’s symbol-systems and conceptual structures, inculcates an ethics, and encourages him to develop a certain kind of sensibility.” [McCarthy, "Mother of All Discourses," 93.] Moreover, it exposes the child to the principles of “botany, zoology, numbers, change of state in chemistry… the money system, the calendar, geography, meteorology, agriculture, political economy, geology, [and] astronomy.” [McCarthy, "Mother of All Discourses," 100.] The series was relatively popular and Maria Edgeworth commented in the educational treatise that she co-authored with her father, "Practical Education" (1798), that it is “one of the best books for young people from seven to ten years old, that has yet appeared.” [Edgeworth, Maria. "Practical Education". "The Novels and Selected Works of Maria Edgeworth". Ed. Susan Manly. Vol. 11. London: Pickering and Chatto (2003), 195.]

left|thumb|Title_page_from_Hymns in Prose"
"Lessons for Children" and "Hymns in Prose" had, for children’s books, an unprecedented impact; not only did they influence the poetry of William Blake and William Wordsworth, [McCarthy, "Mother of All Discourses," 85–6.] they were also used to teach several generations of school children. Children's literature scholar William McCarthy states, "Elizabeth Barrett Browning could still quote the opening lines of "Lessons for Children" at age thirty-nine." [McCarthy, "Mother of All Discourses," 85.] Although both Samuel Johnson and Charles James Fox ridiculed Barbauld’s children’s books and believed that she was wasting her talents, [Rodgers, 71.] Barbauld herself believed that such writing was noble and she encouraged others to follow in her footsteps. As Betsy Rodgers, her biographer explains, “she gave prestige to the writing of juvenile literature, and by not lowering her standard of writing for children, she inspired others to write on a similar high standard.” [Rodgers, 72.] In fact, because of Barbauld, Sarah Trimmer and Hannah More were inspired to write for poor children as well as organize a large-scale Sunday School movement, Ellenor Fenn wrote and designed a series of readers and games for middle-class children and Richard Lovell Edgeworth began one of the first systematic studies of childhood development which would culminate in not only an educational treatise authored by Maria Edgeworth and himself but also in a large body of children’s stories by Maria herself. [ Myers, Mitzi. “Of Mice and Mothers: Mrs. Barbauld’s ‘New Walk’ and Gendered Codes in Children’s Literature.” "Feminine Principles and Women’s Experience in American Composition and Rhetoric". Eds. Louise Wetherbee Phelps and Janet Ennig. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press (1995), 261.]

Barbauld also collaborated with her brother John on the six-volume series "Evenings at Home" (1793). It is a miscellany of stories, fables, dramas, poems, and dialogues. In many ways this series encapsulates the ideals of an Enlightenment education: “curiosity, observation, and reasoning.” [ Fyfe, Aileen. “Reading Children’s Books in Late Eighteenth-Century Dissenting Families.” "The Historical Journal" 43.2 (2000): 469.] For example, the stories encourage learning science through hands-on activities; in “A Tea Lecture” the child learns that tea-making is “properly an operation of "chemistry"” and lessons on diffusion, evaporation, and condensation follow. [Barbauld, Anna Laetitia and John Aikin. "Evenings at Home; or, The Juvenile Budget Opened". 6 Vols. 2nd ed. London: Printed for J. Johnson (1794) 2:69.] The text also emphasizes rationality; in “Things by Their Right Names,” a child demands that his father tell him a story about “a bloody murder.” The father does so, using some of the fictional tropes of fairy tales such as “once upon a time” but confounding his son with details such as the murderers all “had steel caps on.” At the end, the child realizes his father has told him the story of a battle and his father comments “I do not know of any "murders" half so bloody.” [ Barbauld and Aikin, 1:150–152.] Both the tactic of defamiliarizing the world in order to force the reader to think about it rationally and the anti-war message of this tale are prevalent throughout "Evenings at Home". In fact, Michelle Levy, a scholar of the period, has argued that the series encouraged readers to "become critical observers of and, where necessary, vocal resisters to authority." [Levy, Michelle. "The Radical Education of "Evenings at Home"." "Eighteenth-Century Fiction" 19.1–2 (2006–7), 123.] This resistance is learned and practiced in the home; according to Levy, "Evenings at Home"… makes the claim that social and political reform must begin in the family." [Levy, 127.] It is families that are responsible for the nation's progress or regress.

According to Lucy Aikin, Barbauld's niece, Barbauld's contributions to "Evenings at Home" consisted of the following pieces: “The Young Mouse,” “The Wasp and Bee,” “Alfred, a drama,” “Animals and Countries,” “Canute’s Reproof,” “The Masque of Nature,” “Things by their right Names,” “The Goose and Horse,” “On Manufactures,” “The Flying-fish,” “A Lesson in the Art of Distinguishing,” “The Phoenix and Dove,” “The Manufacture of Paper,” “The Four Sisters,” and “Live Dolls.” [ Aikin, Lucy. “Memoir.” "The Works of Anna Laetitia Barbauld". 2 vols. London: Routledge (1996), xxxvi–xxxvii.]

Editorial work

Barbauld edited several major works towards the end of her life, all of which helped to shape the canon as we know it today. First, in 1804 she edited Samuel Richardson's correspondence and wrote an extensive biographical introduction of the man who was perhaps the most influential novelist of the eighteenth century. Her “212-page essay on his life and works [was] the first substantial Richardson biography.” [McCarthy and Kraft, 360.] The following year she edited "Selections from the Spectator, Tatler, Guardian, and Freeholder, with a Preliminary Essay", a volume of essays emphasizing “wit,” “manners” and “taste.” [Barbauld, Anna. “Introduction.” "Selections from the Spectator, Tatler, Guardian, and Freeholder, with a Preliminary Essay". Qtd. on 14 February 2007.] In 1811, she assembled "The Female Speaker", an anthology of literature chosen specifically for young girls. Because, according to Barbauld's philosophy, what one reads when one is young is formative, she carefully considered the “delicacy” of her female readers and “direct [ed] her choice to subjects more particularly appropriate to the duties, the employments, and the dispositions of the softer sex.” [ Barbauld, Anna Laetitia. "The Female Speaker; or, Miscellaneous Pieces, in Prose and Verse, Selected from the Best Writers, and Adapted to the Use of Young Women". 2nd ed. London: Printed for Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, etc. (1816), vi.] The anthology is subdivided into sections such as “moral and didactic pieces” and “descriptive and pathetic pieces"; it includes poetry and prose by, among others, Alexander Pope, Hannah More, Maria Edgeworth, Samuel Johnson, James Thomson and Hester Chapone.

But it was Barbauld’s fifty-volume series of "The British Novelists" published in 1810 with her large introductory essay on the history of the novel that allowed her to place her mark on literary history. It was “the first English edition to make comprehensive critical and historical claims” and was in every respect “a canon-making enterprise.” [McCarthy and Kraft, 375.] In her insightful essay, Barbauld legitimizes the novel, then still a controversial genre, by connecting it to ancient Persian and Greek literature. For her, a good novel is “an epic in prose, with more of character and less (indeed in modern novels nothing) of the supernatural machinery.” [Barbauld, Anna Laetitia. "The British Novelists; with An Essay; and Prefaces, Biographical and Critical, by Mrs. Barbauld". London: Printed for F. C. and J. Rivington, [etc.] (1810), 3.] Barbauld maintains that novel-reading has a multiplicity of benefits; not only is it a “domestic pleasure” but it is also a way to “infus [e] principles and moral feelings” into the population. [ Barbauld, "The British Novelists", 47–8.] Barbauld also provided introductions to each of the fifty authors included in the series.

List of works

This list of works is taken from Wolicky's entry on Barbauld in the "Dictionary of Literary Biography".

*"Corsica: And Ode" (1768)
*"Poems" (1773)
*"Miscellaneous Pieces in Prose" (with John Aikin) (1773)
*"Devotional Pieces, Compiled from the Psalms and the Book of the Job" (1775)
*"Lessons for Children" (1778–9) (4 volumes) [For dating on these volumes, see Myers.]
*"Hymns in Prose for Children" (1781)
*"An Address to the Opposers of the Repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts" (1790)
*"An Epistle to William Wilberforce, Esq. on the Refjection of the Bill for Abolishing the Slave Trade" (1791)
*"Civic Sermons to the People" (1792)
*"Remarks on Mr. Gilbert Wakefield’s Enquiry into the Expediency and Propriety of Public or Social Worship" (1792)
*"Evenings at Home, or The Juvenile Budget Opened" (with John Aikin) (1792–6) (6 volumes)
*"Sins of Government, Sins of the Nation" (1793)
*"Reasons for National Penitence Recommended for the Fast Appointed on February 28, 1794" (1794)
*"What is Education?" "Monthly Magazine" 5 (1798)
*"The Arts of Life" (with John Aikin) (1802)
*"The Correspondence of Samuel Richardson" (edited with a substantial biographical introduction) (6 volumes) (1804)
*"Selections from the Spectator, Tatler, Guardian, and Freeholder, with a Preliminary Essay" (edited with an introduction) (3 volumes) (1805)
*"The British Novelists" (edited with a comprehensive introductory essay and introductions to each author) (50 volumes) (1810)
*"An Essay on the Origin and Progress of Novel-Writing" (1810)
*"The Female Speaker" (edited) (1811)
*"Eighteen Hundred and Eleven" (1812)
*"The Works of Anna Laetitia Barbauld. With a Memoir by Lucy Aikin" (edited by Barbauld’s niece, Lucy Aikin) (1825)
*"A Legacy for Young Ladies" (edited by Barbauld’s niece, Lucy Aikin, after Barbauld's death) (1826)




*Ellis, Grace. " [,M1 A Memoir of Mrs. Anna Laetitia Barbauld with Many of Her Letters] ". 2 vols. Boston: James R. Osgood and Co., 1874. Retrieved on 17 April 2007.
*Le Breton, Anna Letitia. "Memoir of Mrs. Barbauld, including Letters and Notices of Her Family and Friends. By her Great Niece Anna Letitia Le Breton". London: George Bell and Sons, 1874.
*Murch, J. "Mrs. Barbauld and her Contemporaries". London: Longman, 1877.
*Thackeray, Anne Ritchie. "A Book of Sibyls". London: Smith, 1883.
*Rodgers, Betsy. "Georgian Chronicle: Mrs. Barbauld and Her Family". London: Methuen, 1958.

A new biography of Barbauld by William McCarthy is in preparation.

Primary sources

*Barbauld, Anna Letitia. "Anna Letitia Barbauld: Selected Poetry & Prose". Eds. William McCarthy and Elizabeth Kraft. Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press Ltd., 2002. ISBN 978-1551112411.
*Barbauld, Anna Letitia. "The Poems of Anna Letitia Barbauld". Ed. William McCarthy and Elizabeth Kraft. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1994. ISBN 0820315281.

econdary sources

*Armstrong, Isobel. "The Gush of the Feminine: How Can we Read Women's Poetry of the Romantic Period?" "Romantic Women Writers: Voices and Countervoices". Eds. Paula R. Feldman and Theresa M. Kelley. Hanover: University Press of New England, 1995. ISBN 978-0874517248
*Ellison, Julie. "The Politics of Fancy in the Age of Sensibility." "Re-Visioning Romanticism: British Women Writers, 1776–1837." Ed. Carol Shiner Wilson and Joel Haefner. Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1994. ISBN 978-0812214215
*Fyfe, Aileen. “Reading Children’s Books in Late Eighteenth-Century Dissenting Families.” "The Historical Journal" 43.2 (2000): 453–473.
*Guest, Harriet. "Anna Laetitia Barbauld and the Mighty Mothers of Immortal Rome." "Small Change: Women, Learning, Patriotism, 1750–1810". Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. ISBN 978-0226310527
*Janowitz, Anne. "Women Romantic Poets: Anna Barbauld and Mary Robinson". Tavistock: Northcote House, 2003. ISBN 978-0746308967
*Levy, Michell. "The Radical Education of "Evenings at Home"." "Eighteenth-Century Fiction" 19.1–2 (2006–7): 123–150.
*McCarthy, William. “The Celebrated Academy at Palgrave: A Documentary History of Anna Letitia Barbauld's School.” "The Age of Johnson: A Scholarly Annual" 8 (1997): 279–392.
*McCarthy, William. “A ‘High-Minded Christian Lady’: The Posthumous Reception of Anna Letitia Barbauld.” "Romanticism and Women Poets: Opening the Doors of Reception". Eds. Harriet Kramer Linkin and Stephen C. Behrendt. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1999. ISBN 978-0813121079
*McCarthy, William. "Mother of All Discourses: Anna Barbauld's "Lessons for Children"." "Princeton University Library Chronicle" 60.2 (Winter 1999): 196–219.
*McCarthy, William. "'We Hoped the Woman Was Going to Appear': Repression, Desire, and Gender in Anna Letitia Barbauld's Early Poems." "Romantic Women Writers: Voices and Countervoices." Eds. Paula R. Feldman and Theresa M. Kelley. Hanover: Univ. Press of New England, 1995. ISBN 978-0874517248
*Mellor, Anne K. “A Criticism of Their Own: Romantic Women Literary Critics.” "Questioning Romanticism". Ed. John Beer. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1995. ISBN 978-0801850523
*Myers, Mitzi. "Of Mice and Mothers: Mrs. Barbauld's 'New Walk' and Gendered Codes in Children's Literature." "Feminine Principles and Women's Experience in American Composition and Rhetoric". Eds. Louise Wetherbee Phelps and Janet Emig. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1995. ISBN 978-0822955443
*Robbins, Sarah "Lessons for Children" and Teaching Mothers: Mrs. Barbauld's Primer for the Textual Construction of Middle-Class Domestic Pedagogy." "The Lion and the Unicorn" 17.2 (Dec. 1993): 135–51.
*Ross, Marlon. "Configurations of Feminine Reform: The Woman Writers and the Tradition of Dissent." "Re-visioning Romanticism: British Women Writers, 1776–1837". Eds. Carol Shiner Wilson and Joel Haefner. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994. ISBN 978-0812214215
*White, Daniel E. "The 'Joineriana': Anna Barbauld, the Aikin Family Circle, and the Dissenting Public Sphere." "Eighteenth-Century Studies" 32.4 (Summer 1999): 511–33.

External links

*gutenberg author|id=Anna_Laetitia_Barbauld|name=Anna Laetitia Barbauld
*Several of Barbauld's writings are available from the Women Writers Project.
* [ Prose Works of Anna Barbauld]
* [ Selected works of Anna Barbauld including a full-color facsimile of "The Works of Anna Lætitia Barbauld" (1825)]
*" [ Selections from the Spectator, Tatler, Guardian and Freeholder] " at google books
*" [ The Female Speaker] " at google books

NAME=Barbauld, Anna Laetitia
ALTERNATIVE NAMES=Barbauld, Anna Letitia
DATE OF BIRTH=20 June 1743
PLACE OF BIRTH=Kibworth, England
DATE OF DEATH=9 March 1825
PLACE OF DEATH=Stoke Newington, England

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Anna Laetitia Barbauld — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Anna Laetitia Barbauld …   Wikipedia Español

  • Anna Laetitia Barbauld — (* 20. Juni 1743 in Kibworth Harcourt, Leicestershire; † 9. März 1825 in Stoke Newington) war eine englische Autorin. Leben Anna Laetitia Barbauld, Tochter des Arztes John Aikin und Jane Jennings, wurde am 20 …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Anna Laetitia Barbauld — (1743–1825), gravure 1798 Anna Laetitia Barbauld (bɑrˈboʊld, ou peut être …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Barbauld, Anna Laetitia — ▪ British author and editor original name  Anna Laetitia Aikin  born June 20, 1743, Kibworth Harcourt, Leicestershire, Eng. died March 9, 1825, Stoke Newington, near London       British writer, poet, and editor whose best writings are on… …   Universalium

  • Anna Barbauld — Anna Laetitia Barbauld Anna Laetitia Barbauld (* 20. Juni 1743; † 9. März 1825) war eine englische Autorin. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Leben 2 Literatur …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Barbauld — Anna Laetitia Barbauld Anna Laetitia Barbauld (* 20. Juni 1743; † 9. März 1825) war eine englische Autorin. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Leben 2 Literatur …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Mrs. Barbauld — Anna Laetitia Barbauld Anna Laetitia Barbauld (* 20. Juni 1743; † 9. März 1825) war eine englische Autorin. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Leben 2 Literatur …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Lessons for Children — Page de titre d une édition de 1801 de Lessons for Children, part I. Lessons for Children (« Leçons pour les enfants ») est une série de quatre livres destinés aux enfants, écrits par l essayiste et poète britannique Anna Laetitia… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Lessons for Children — Lessons for Children …   Wikipedia Español

  • Lessons for Children — is a series of four age adapted reading primers written by prominent eighteenth century British poet and essayist Anna Laetitia Barbauld. Published in 1778 and 1779, the books initiated a revolution in children’s literature in the Anglo American… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.