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"A thing unknown, without a name": Anna Laetitia Barbauld and the illegible signature.

I. Introduction

ALTHOUGH SHE WAS A WELL-KNOWN AND HIGHLY RESPECTED WRITER OF poetry, children's literature, civil sermons, and critical prose, Anna Laetitia Barbauld (born Aikin, 1743-1825) was reluctant to view herself as a professional author. Most crucially, Barbauld did not depend on her writing for a livelihood, and emphasized the social and moral concerns shaping her forays into print. Her notion of poetic labor was forged not only in the culture of sensibility, but in the culture of religious dissent. The Aikins were active members of the non-conformist community located in Lancashire county; Barbauld's father, John Aikin, served as a tutor in divinity at Warrington Academy, and Barbauld was informally educated in this environment. In 1774 Anna Laetitia Aikin married Rochemont Barbauld, a graduate of Warrington and a dissenting minister. One of the most famous academies of its kind, Warrington served as an important center of dissenting thought in the late eighteenth century. (1) Joseph Priestley taught at Warrington from 1761 until 1767, and became close friends with the Aikins.

Barbauld's acquaintance with Priestley and his works purportedly inspired her to write her first poems. (2) Her initial readership was the dissenting community in which she lived; Barbauld circulated her poetry in manuscript to friends and to the students and tutors at Warrington. Through these channels, her fame spread, but Barbauld shunned publicity. In "A Legacy for Young Ladies," she emphasized that women's role is "to be a wife, a mother, a mistress of a family. The knowledge belonging to these duties is your professional knowledge, the want of which nothing will excuse." Literary knowledge could be a "duty" for men, but for women it was to be used for "the purposes of adorning and improving the mind, of refining the sentiments, and supplying proper stores for conversation." (3) Accounts of Barbauld's literary career suggest that she had to be persuaded to publish her works at all. She published her first poems anonymously in 1772, in a volume of songs edited by her brother John, and in a volume of hymns edited by a tutor at Warrington, William Enfield. In response to "many demands" Barbauld prepared her first solo volume, Poems, which was published by Joseph Johnson in 1773 and printed by the Eyres press in Warrington. Poems went through three editions that year, reaching a fifth edition by 1776 and a sixth by 1792; an American edition was printed in 1820. Following Poems, Barbauld published Epistle to William Wilberforce (1791) and Eighteen Hundred and Eleven (1812) with Joseph Johnson, and placed some additional poetry in magazines and anthologies. (4)

While Barbauld produced works in many genres, her total production as a poet was slight; the bulk of her poetry remained unpublished until after her death. (5) Even following the success of Poems, printed under her name, she continued to circulate work by manuscript, often preferring to send poems to friends rather than publish them. Similarly, anonymity was not simply a cloak Barbauld wore prior to securing a measure of literary fame, as was the norm with many women writers (6); throughout the course of her career, Barbauld chose to publish some of her poetry anonymously, to sign some poems "A Lady," or to use the initials A.L.B. or A.B. The poetic persona she cultivated was one of privacy, modesty, and restraint.

Such claims to privacy by eighteenth-century women writers were highly conventional, serving to display compliance with gendered codes of public decorum. Barbauld was certainly influenced by these codes, and scholars have tended to view her as conservative in her acceptance of imposed gendered roles and the doctrine of separate spheres. For instance, Carol Shiner Wilson notes the lack of conflict in Barbauld's poetry "between the needle of domesticity and the pen of artistic desire found in many women writers." (7) But recent work is beginning to suggest that representing her poetic labor as an extension of her private, domestic role did not simply signal Barbauld's acquiescence with gendered limits, but formed a complicated, albeit complicitous, critique of the political and economic systems that shaped her experience as a woman writer and religious dissenter. (8) Crucial to this revision, I will argue, is an understanding of how Barbauld's poetry was produced and circulated, knowledge that the scrupulous edition of Barbauld's poetry by McCarthy and Kraft has recently supplied.

This essay argues that Barbauld develops a lyric aesthetic based on the miniature object so as to textually and materially define a circulation distinct from the dominant, commercially controlled circuits of exchange. The miniaturist poem offers itself to a small, local audience through the conceit of the gift rather than the commodity. A key thread in the fabric of the literature of sentiment, miniaturist literature advertises itself as the product of feminine, domestic handicraft; in doing so, it appears to accept its "minor" status, its role as adornment, the themes of domestic life and moral virtues. While it is a literature defined by the limits of its thematic and formal reach, these limits also serve as the source of its power and critique: Barbauld inscribes her miniaturist poetry as the privileged unit of a representational and political economy opposed to capitalist expansion in its imperialist variety, and to its poetic counterpart, the expansive romantic self. At stake in her use of a miniaturist aesthetic is a model of poetic sincerity based not on autobiographical confession, but on anonymity and the concealment of the personal. Although she wrote and published alongside the first generation romantics, Barbauld--due to her use of Augustan diction and emphasis on the object world rather than on expressions of private feeling--has been seen as an anachronistic throwback to eighteenth-century neoclassical writers. An exploration of Barbauld's miniaturist aesthetic not only reveals that she was actively immersed in the cultural world of romanticism, but that her poetry charts an influential if little-recognized response to the marketing of poetic sincerity and the culture of literary celebrity. (9)

2. Anonymity and Literary Property

Barbauld reflects on the limits and possibilities of the miniature as a model for female authorship in an early unpublished poem, "An Inventory of the Furniture in Dr. Priestley's Study." (10) This poem considers the scene of poetic production from an unnamed or anonymous narrator's perspective, placing perspective itself in question. What renders Barbauld's poem a miniaturist study is its concern with spatial perspective versus temporal narration: titled an "inventory," it advertises itself as the work of fancy versus imagination, as nothing more than the accumulation of visual, minute detail. (11) In overt theme and purpose the poem is domestic, its work comparable to the mental survey someone such as Priestley's wife or maid might perform as she glances in the study to check that everything is in its proper place.

Although an inventory would appear to have little political import, the narrator's description of Priestley's furniture belies this expectation. Priestley was one of the most well-known republican dissenters of the late eighteenth century. By describing the objects in his study, the narrator draws an implicit portrait of the man and his intellectual and political engagements, investing neutral objects with political meaning. Indeed, at stake in this poem about furniture is the relationship between possessions and their owners, property and authorship. The poem begins with a contrast between landed property and intellectual capital:
 A map of every country known,
 With not a foot of land his own.
 A list of folks that kicked a dust
 On this poor globe, from Ptol. the First;
 He hopes,--indeed it is but fair,--
 Some day to get a corner there.
 (1-6, Poems 38-39)


The narrator alludes to works that Priestley has authored--The New Chart of History (1769) and The Chart of Biography (1765)--and implies that these books are the only form of property available to him. Priestley's lack of material property and the unlikelihood that his name will pass into posterity, connotes the history of unequal treatment, specifically the deprivation of civil and political liberties, experienced by dissenters under British law. (12) This situation resonates doubly for Barbauld, who suffered exclusions not only as a dissenter but as a woman (Ross, "Configurations" 93).

Yet language, the narrator shows, is a medium able to subvert the exigencies of material circumstance:
 A group of all the British kings,
 Fair emblem! on a packthread swings
 The fathers, ranged in goodly row,
 A decent, venerable show,
 Writ a great while ago, they tell us,
 And many an inch o'ertop their fellows.

 The meek-robed lawyers, all in white;
 Pure as the lamb,--at least, to sight.
 (7-16)


While the classics of religion and law lining Priestley's shelves indicate that he is a faithful English citizen, the narrator implies that appearances deceive, through her description of the spatial arrangement of these works. The fact that the British kings are "swinging on a packthread" connotes an image of the kings hanging by their necks, an "emblem" not of justice and order but of the glorious revolution and Priestley's republican politics (Poems 247). Similarly, by stating that the works of the church fathers make a "venerable show," and that the lawyers appear "pure as the lamb,--at least to sight," the narrator reveals the limits of the visible. In this manner she suggests that her project of visual description belies its manifest appearance, that the meaning of the inventory can be discerned not simply in the objects she catalogues, but in what she implies. More specifically, meaning accrues in her use and arrangement of Priestley's objects in the poem. The portrait of Priestley emerges through what remains invisible without the paintbrush of language: the history and use of his objects. Language itself, then, in its doubleness, its ability to refer to both what is visible and invisible, can evade the exigencies of the material, visible world, defying attempts to declare written texts as material forms of property.

The narrator develops an apt metaphor for language as a propertyless medium--electricity--as she inventories the tools of science that Priestley employs in his study:
 A shelf of bottles, jar and phial
 By which the rogues he can defy all,--
 All filled with lightning keen and genuine,
 And many a little imp he'll pen you in;
 Which, like le Sage's sprite, let out,
 Among the neighbours makes a rout;
 Brings down the lightning on their houses,
 And kills their geese, and frights their spouses.
 A rare thermometer, by which
 He settles, to the nicest pitch,
 The just degrees of heat, to raise
 Sermons, or politics, or plays.
 (17-28)


Priestley wrote a History of Electricity in 1767; the "phial" or Leyden jar was used to store electricity, which when discharged "made a spark like lightning" (Poems 247). The narrator draws a parallel between writing and lightning through the use of a pun, that classic figure of doubleness: punning on the word "pen," she refers both to the electrical "imps" Priestley pens or cages in the jars or phials, and to the verbal "imps" he creates in his treatises. Like electricity, language is invisible until it is released from its "pen" and circulated; only at this point can it achieve contact, creating tangible sparks. Additionally, the allusion to "Le Sage's sprite" would resonate with a contemporary audience; it refers to Le Diable Boiteux by Rene Le Sage, in which "a student releases from a phial in a laboratory a spirit named Asmodeus, who creates a furor among the neighbors by lifting the roofs from their houses and revealing their private lives" (Poems 248). The narrator implies that Priestley's muse, like le Sage's sprite, aims to strike discord. On the other hand, Priestley was responding to a violent social conflict, a conflict which would eventually result in personal domestic havoc, the burning of his study and laboratory in the Birmingham riots of 1791. (13)

Through her alliance with the doubleness of language, the narrator distinguishes herself from Priestley, criticizing his incendiary form of writing. Although dissenters are "unfairly" barred from property, power, and civil liberties, the narrator presents Priestley's response to this, his agitation for reform, as no different in kind from the oppression he seeks to counter. His desire for a "corner" of the map renders his political "commerce" as corrupt as that of his enemies':
 Papers and books, a strange mixed olio,
 From shilling touch to pompous folio,
 Answer, remark, reply, rejoinder,
 Fresh from the mint, all stamped and coined here;
 Like new-made glass, set by to cool,
 Before it bears the workman's tool
 A blotted proof-sheet, wet from Bowling.
 --"How can a man his anger hold in?"--
 Forgotten rimes, and college themes,
 Worm-eaten plans, and embryo schemes;--
 A mass of heterogeneous matter,
 A chaos dark, nor land nor water;--
 (29-40)


Comparing the varieties of polemical treatises in Priestley's study ("answer, remark, reply, rejoinder") to freshly minted coins, the narrator points out the connections between financial and political commerce. In using such treatises, Priestley subjects his politics to the logic of the marketplace, to the competition, one-upmanship, and desire for property and power that fuels the proliferation of texts and commodities. More pointedly, the narrator suggests that Priestley is not simply a victim of the marketplace, but that the kind of polemical rhetoric he deploys drives the proliferation of print; the marketplace thrives on political division and strife, the distinctions between the "shilling touch" and "pompous folio," and between their authors. The image of the blotted proof-sheet, spoiled by excess ink, implies--by its ambiguity or doubleness of reference--Priestley's culpability in this system. On one hand, the question "How can a man his anger hold in" could allude to Priestley's righteous anger at the printer, who is guilty of a mistake; Priestley is thus the victim, the purity of his motives "blotted" by the market. On the other hand, the cause for the excess ink may lie with Priestley, the printer producing in the blurred proof-sheet an accurate representation of the dissenter's angry polemics; when they are subsumed by anger, individual words and meanings lose distinction. From this perspective, Priestley's politics are smudged or corrupted by his method.

The imagery of violence and chaos resonates with what seems to be a subtext for the entire poem, Pope's Dunciad, his satire on the "dulness" and maliciousness of hack writers. Consider Pope's rendition of the goddess of dulness overlooking her works:
 Here she beholds the Chaos dark and deep,
 Where nameless somethings in their causes sleep,
 'Till genial Jacob, or a warm Third-day
 Call forth each mass, a poem or a play.
 How Hints, like spawn, scarce quick in embryo lie,
 How new-born Nonsense first is taught to cry,
 Maggots half-form'd, in rhyme exactly meet,
 And learn to cram upon poetic feet.
 (53-60) (14)


In Pope's vision of chaos, the literary market causes the proliferation of dulness; Martinus Scriblerus, Pope's editorial mouthpiece, tells us in his preface that "Paper also became so cheap, and printers so numerous, that a deluge of authors cover'd the land" (344). What results is reproduction run amok, with "Genial Jacob" (Jacob Tonson, a leading publisher) calling forth births before their time, producing deformities in a parody of divine procreation. (15)

Similarly, in Barbauld's poem, the narrator presents an image of hideous birth and deformity:
 New books, like new-born infants, stand,
 Waiting the printer's clothing hand;--
 Others a motley ragged brood,
 Their limbs unfashioned all, and rude,
 Like Cadmus' half-formed men appear;
 One rears a helm, one lifts a spear,
 And feet were lopped and fingers torn
 Before their fellow limbs were born;
 A leg began to kick and sprawl
 Before the head was seen at all,
 Which quiet as a mushroom lay
 Till crumbling hillocks gave it way;
 And all, like controversial writing,
 Were born with teeth and sprung up fighting.
 (41-54)


The reproduction of these texts involves both the author and the market, the newborns awaiting the "printer's clothing hand." Like Pope's "half-form'd maggots," these men/texts were born/printed too soon, their deformities indicative of what happens to political writing that conforms to the logic of the marketplace. The result is war without purpose or resolution, violence that breeds further violence. The narrator alludes to "Cadmus' half-formed men," an episode from Ovid's Metamorphoses, to flesh out this connection; Cadmus plants the teeth of a dragon, which are born "feet first, as armed men, who slay one another" (Poems 248). Through the grotesque image of half-birthed bodies violently attacking one another before they can even see one another, the narrator conveys what happens when men/texts are governed not by their "head" or reason, but by passion. (16) Clear "sides" are lacking in such battle, as are winners and losers: all become tools of a stronger force, the marketplace that feeds off their passion, turning severed limbs into so many coins.

The inventory thus leaves the domestic scene and enters the arena of politics and economy, blurring the distinction between Priestley's professional domain and the domestic domain of the narrator. (17) Priestley's study emerges as a landscape of failed warfare. Personification renders what was implicit--the narrator's perspective on Priestley--explicit; vision and the world of objects are openly subverted by the narrator's imagination and language. (18) Priestley himself takes shape, through his implication in his texts, as one of Cadmus' half-formed warriors. Revealing Priestley's deformities through the narrator's use of personification, Barbauld valorizes by contrast a form of literary production opposed to competition and attack (Ross, "Configurations" 104-5). In using language as a weapon Priestley achieved public notoriety, and a certain amount of celebrity; his name thus became a kind of property in the marketplace, an allegorical signifier or personification of the man. In contrast, it is significant that Barbauld does not name herself in the poem, resisting the assertion of an authorial "I" except through the mediation of Priestley's property. By resisting the creation of property in her name, Barbauld signals that she does not use language as a weapon, nor as a source of celebrity or professional profit. (19) Rather, her labor to make the implicit explicit suggests that she draws on the powers of language as a propertyless medium to make manifest or expose the hidden interests and deformities of power. Her inventory radiates outwards from furniture to suggest its embeddedness in questions of property, politics, and commerce. Breaking down public/private boundaries, she shows that the interiority of the self, like the bourgeois interior she inventories, is supported or framed by political and economic interests.

In this respect, Barbauld's critique of Priestley resembles her critiques of Coleridge, Southey, and female writers of sensibility such as Charlotte Smith, who chose to follow the melancholic muse. (20) In general, Barbauld portrays these poets' tendencies towards isolation and melancholy as self-indulgent, and their displays of emotion, like Priestley's displays of anger, as excessive. The charge of self-indulgence was tied to Barbauld's sense that in dwelling on private suffering, these poets overlooked or ignored others' feelings and perspectives. Moreover, private suffering fed the cause of celebrity in the marketplace; Barbauld implies that these poets exploited and even marketed private emotion. Thus Barbauld urges Coleridge (whom she met in 1797) to chase away "each spleen-fed fog." Melancholy had "pampered" him "with most unsubstantial food," rendering him indolent; she warns him to remain "on noble aims intent," to seek "fair exertion, for bright fame sustained" ("To Mr. S. T. Coleridge" 30, 36, 40, Poems 132-33). Fame was a noble goal only if sought "For friends, for country ..." (41). While Barbauld shares with the poets of sensibility the delights of isolation and nature, she stresses that she seeks out these retreats not to dwell on her private pain, but to articulate divine presence: "If friendless, in a vale of tears I stray, / Where briars wound, and thorns perplex my way, / ... / In every leaf that trembles to the breeze / I hear the voice of GOD among the trees; / With thee in shady solitudes I walk ..." ("An Address to the Deity" 49-50, 61-63, Poems 5).

Barbauld transforms her exclusion from holding property, her position on the margins of circuits of political and economic exchange, into a moral advantage. A literary production involving slightness and anonymity signifies her distance from motives of profit, property, and celebrity. Namelessness signifies a form of self representation dedicated to ideals distinct from the marketplace, as is evident in the closing lines of" Inventory," in which Barbauld imagines the poem's reception:
 "But what is this," I hear you cry,
 "Which saucily provokes my eye?"--
 A thing unknown, without a name,
 Born of the air and doomed to flame.
 (55-58)


The poem could be interpreted on the visual level alone, as a "nameless" piece of trash to be thrown into the fireplace. Indeed, according to the logic of competition and celebrity, Barbauld's nameless poem would be "doomed to flame." Yet Barbauld's refusal to name "you" or "I" mars the visible surface of the poem, unsettling reference. The "thing unknown, without a name" could refer not only to Barbauld's poem, but to one of the political pamphlets lining the study; "Namelessness" might connote, as it does in Pope's lines ("Here she beholds the Chaos dark and deep, / Where nameless somethings in their causes sleep"), not anonymous texts, but texts churned out for the market, lacking distinction even when named.

In this manner Barbauld unsettles the significance of the name as a marker of property in the self. Another poem about Priestley, "To Dr. Priestley. Dec. 29, 1792," written soon after the passage of the Royal Proclamation Against Seditious Writings and Publications (May 1792) and the Birmingham riots, evidences Barbauld's attempts to redefine the value of the name. She asks of Priestley: "Burns not thy cheek indignant, when thy name, / On which delighted science lov'd to dwell, / Becomes the bandied theme of hooting crowds?" (5-7; Poems 125). Priestley's name, due to his outspoken criticism of the church and his immersion in political pamphlet wars, oversignifies, as a political marker of republican dissent and as a target of"the slander of a passing age." His name is reduced to common currency, his works to "nameless somethings," "doomed to flame." Yet Barbauld argues that his name is owed a "debt of fame," which she assures him will be paid, "when thy name, to freedom's join'd, / Shall meet the thanks of a regenerate land" (20-21). Barbauld's poem works to change the valence of his name, to begin paying off that debt. Redefining the significance of the name, then, is connected to the goals of dissent, allied at this moment to the ideals of the French Revolution, which also spurred acts of re- naming--of the republic and its calendar. (21) Given the seditious writings act, Barbauld did not publish "To Dr. Priestley," but circulated it privately to Priestley's supporters; however, as she noted in a letter to her son, "some of the ministers ... got hold of & would print (it)." (22) The poem appeared in the Morning Chronicle on Jan. 8, 1793, unsigned.

Anonymity in this instance served as protection against political censorship and persecution, but this was not always Barbauld's motive in concealing her name; it is significant that she published both the "Epistle to Wilberforce" in 1791, and "1811" under her own name, even though both treated political affairs. Moreover, given Barbauld's thematization of naming in her poetry and prose, and her resistance to representing herself in her poetry, we can infer that concealment of her signature was connected to her negotiation of literary commerce.

3. Name Disguise and the Rhetoric of Sincerity

Conventions of name concealment--including anonyms, pseudonyms, initials, anagrams, and numerous variations on these practices--were ubiquitous in British newspapers, periodicals, and volumes of prose and poetry during the romantic period. Conventions of name disguise accompany the emergence of the newspaper and periodical in the seventeenth century, and this tradition continues until the latter half of the nineteenth century. (23) In many eighteenth-century periodicals, such as The Tatler (Isaac Bickerstaff), The Spectator (Mr. Spectator), The Gentleman's Magazine (Sylvanus Urban), and The Lady's Magazine (Mrs. Stanhope), the editor assumed a name and persona which was used to unify the periodical (Shevelow 71). Regular feature writers as well as correspondents to newspapers and periodicals often employed assumed names. The Nichols File of The Gentleman's Magazine best exemplifies how widespread this practice was: this file contains a complete record of the magazine from 1731 to 1863, with over 13,000 attributions of authorship filled in by the Nichols family; this figure does not include the enormous number of articles that remain unidentified. (24) Mary Hiller estimates that between 1824 and 1900, 75% of articles published in monthlies and quarterlies were signed with anonyms or pseudonyms (124). Southey, Shelley, Byron, Mary Robinson, Jane Austen, Anna Seward, and Coleridge all used name disguises at some point in their careers, indicating the centrality of this practice.

The practice of name concealment began to decrease in the late 1850s and early 1860s. Although the London Review was founded in 1809 on the principle of signed articles, it failed after four issues (Hiller 124). Macmillan's Magazine began to use signatures in 1859, and new periodicals established in the 1860s and early 70s explicitly defined their editorial policy around the value of the signature. (25) Established periodicals soon followed suit. The periodical The Nineteenth Century, established in 1877, printed the names of its celebrated writers on its front cover, indicating the ascendancy of the signature (Hiller 126).

With this shift from name concealment to signature, name concealment became a matter of historical interest; dictionaries of anonyms, pseudonyms, and fictitious names began to appear in which scholars described this practice in its various forms, and revealed and catalogued the "true identities" of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century authors. (26) The first of these dictionaries was published in 1868 by Olphar Hamst, Esq. (an anagram for Ralph Thomas), Handbook of Fictitious Names (London, 1868); John Edward Haynes followed suit in 1882 with Pseudonyms of Authors, Including Anonyms and Initialisms (New York, 1882); and Samuel Halkett and John Laing in the 1880's, with Dictionary of Anonymous and Pseudonymous English Literature. (27)

The revelation of "true" authorship in these dictionaries was not a new practice, but was rather a formalization of the guesswork, gossip, and sharing of knowledge that had always accompanied use of name disguise in the public media. Penetrating authors' disguises had become a game-of-sorts, and their assumed names riddles to be solved (Nichols File 15, 19, Ezell 14); discussion of the identity of authors was a constant theme in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century correspondence (Shattock 16, Hiller 126). As it turns out, assumed names were often "open secrets" within certain circles of readers (Shattock 15, Hiller 142, Ezell 18). Authors were identified by their distinctive style or subject matter. Also, authors sometimes revealed their identity to friends, or provided clues to their coterie through their choice of name disguise. (28) As Samuel Halkett stated in the preface to his dictionary, "varying degrees of concealment can be traced, ranging from a pseudonym which offers a complete disguise to one which hides nothing at all. An author may desire to remain unknown to the general public only, and may therefore adopt a pseudonym which is transparent to his friends ..." (xii). For instance, while some authors completely obscured their names, using a series of asterisks and stars to mark their "signature," others simply used their initials or a variation thereof. Many authors used more than one assumed name; Richard Gough (1735-1809), who was the principal reviewer for the Gentleman's Magazine during the 1780s and 90s, used almost a hundred different signatures (Nichols File 10).

This brief history begs the obvious question: why were these practices of name disguise so pervasive, and why were they replaced by the explicit use of the signature in the late nineteenth century? An adequate answer would have to account for the great variety of contexts in which assumed names were used in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, clearly an enormous project. By way of beginning to approach this question, I will discuss a repeated concern of the literature about assumed names: defenses of name concealment and defenses of uses of the signature both relied on the rhetoric of sincerity. Periodicals that defended name disguise argued that it permitted sincere expression without fear of reprisal, while critics of name disguise argued that only when authors had to append their signatures and assume public responsibility for their statements, would they write honestly and ethically (Hiller 125, Shattock 16).

Sincerity is essential to the culture of sensibility, and by the late eighteenth century had become a dominant rhetoric of literature. By sincerity, I refer to the range of expressive gestures and conventions used by writers to mark the voice of the textual speaker as their own, including assertions of spontaneity, originality, artlessness, authenticity, and confessionalism. Logically, name disguise and textual claims to sincerity would seem to be at odds, but I propose that they are integrally connected. Judith Pascoe makes a similar argument in her recent work on romantic theatricality. In comparing Mary Robinson's use of multiple pseudonyms with Wordsworth's stable authorial voice, she argues that Wordsworth no less than Robinson "struck a pose, but his was that of the sincere rural dweller." (29) In other words, Wordsworth's sincerity was as much a performance as Robinson's, but where she embraced the theatricality of language and identity, he tried to repress it (Pascoe 242). Judith Pascoe, Catherine Gallagher and Mary Jacobus, among others, have persuasively connected the theatricality of self-representation to authors' negotiations of their reputations in the literary marketplace (30); conversely, we might view the rhetoric of sincerity as emerging to mediate both the author's increasing dependence on the value of their "name" in the literary marketplace and changing conditions of literary property.

Following Pope's lawsuit against Curll in 1741, the Statute of Anne was used to provide an early form of copyright protection, signaling the writer's property in his/her name. A claim to a unique, recognizable identity began to prove crucial to the value of the literary work as a commodity in the marketplace. (31) But readerly anxiety about professional authorship accompanied this change; the possibility of making profits from a literary work spurred fears that the professional author was not to be trusted, mirroring larger uncertainties about transparency of motive in a burgeoning and competitive market economy. (32) At stake was the author's role in and influence on a social collectivity defined by the tension between moral conduct versus economic commerce; to cite Wordsworth, what values would bind together a social fabric "melted and reduced / To one identity by differences / that have no law, no meaning, and no end?" (33) Sincerity, then, was not a transparent rhetoric that professional commerce corrupted, but rather developed in tandem with it so as to mediate readerly distrust and anxiety. Built into sincerity was its opacity--the necessary possibility of disguise, artifice, and theatricality.

Name concealment conventions played a vital role in the production of authorial sincerity: the assumed name was the garb that clothed the poem as a printed commodity, and helped guide the public in translating the poetic text into the figure of the "sincere" poet. Barbauld is not a theatrical poet in the manner of a Byron, Mary Robinson, or Charles Baudelaire, who assume and take off numerous disguises to expose and critique the theatricality of sincerity itself, drawing attention to the role of the reader and market in producing the values through which the poet's performance is judged. However, Barbauld was certainly aware of the theatricality or "doubleness" of language, that language could be used to disguise identity and to deceive others as much as to illuminate or expose. (34) Like Wordsworth in his "Essays upon Epitaphs," Barbauld's textual strategy is to define a morally transparent language, a language resistant to its own potential for theatricality or "doubleness."

Her twist on the "autobiographical" poem--"On a Lady's Writing"-demonstrates this endeavor (Poems 70):
 Her even lines her steady temper show;
 Neat as her dress, and polish'd as her brow;
 Strong as her judgment, easy as her air;
 Correct though free, and regular though fair:
 And these same graces o'er pen preside
 That form her manners and her footsteps guide.


Barbauld stresses the transparency of writing, the correspondence between a lady's moral conduct and her signature. Rather than expressing sincerity in personal terms, Barbauld objectifies the signature, divesting it of particularity such that it comes to stand for all ladies, and perhaps for the common practice of signing a poem as "a lady." As in her "Inventory" poem, by resisting the assertion of subjectivity within the poem, Barbauld aligns herself with language itself, with the crisp, clear signature.

By blurring or obfuscating the particulars of her identity within her texts, a practice often corroborated by concealment of the name attached to the poem, Barbauld employs what we might call the "illegible signature." While Charlotte Smith sought to connect her poetic persona to her "real" suffering, which she described in the Prefaces to her poems so as to garner readerly sympathy and a measure of celebrity, Barbauld claims the sincerity of the lyric voice but resists readerly efforts to read her poems for clues to her life, for details which might identify her as a recognizable personality. (35) Although the illegible signature may seem to render Barbauld an abstract "type," her self-presentation in her poetry serves to assure her readers that her goal is to cleanse language of deception and ground it in morality, to make the invisible visible. This is to say that the "illegibility" of her signature is planned; her signature was supposed to be read, or legible, in certain ways but not in others. Rather than stating in her work, "I am speaking sincerely and these experiences are real," Barbauld suggests that true sincerity must be inferred, that it is inconsistent with such proclamations. (36)

Publishing poetry anonymously or by partially concealing her name with initials did not function simply as an erasure of self, but confirmed Barbauld's textual self-presentation. We can surmise that to readers Barbauld knew, or to readers familiar with Barbauld's work and style, her authorship of poems printed anonymously was an open secret. Although she participated in writerly commerce, Barbauld worked to articulate a "private" publicness, contingent on being recognized by a coterie of dissenting readers while remaining anonymous within the larger reading public. Hence name disguise served not simply as a form of feminine decorum or as protection against persecution, but also as a model for a kind of "sincere" authorship opposed to the conflation of naming and property, to the culture of celebrity. Ironically, the illegible signature--by sectioning off a realm of "privacy" that the reader cannot penetrate--guarantees the sincerity (or what Barbauld refers to as the visual and moral transparency) of language.

4. The Geography of the Gift

Thus we can conclude that the illegible signature within Barbauld's poetry is connected to how Barbauld viewed literary property, influencing how she published and circulated her work. In short, she devised strategies, both textual and material, for defining a poetic circulation distinct from, though often contained within, dominant circuits of exchange. This strategy helps to

explain a central formal and thematic pattern in her poetry, related to the method she employs in "Inventory": the presentation of the poem as a small object and the poet as its implicit observer, absorbed into the act of looking. More specifically, Barbauld presents many of her poems as written on, inscribed on, or placed alongside a domestic object, toy, or piece of furniture. This body of work includes "Inscription for an Ice-House," "Inscribed on a Pair of Screens," "Lines placed over a chimney-piece," "Lines with a Wedding Present," "Lines written in a young lady's Album of different-coloured Paper," "Verses written in the leaves of an ivory Pocket-Book, presented to Master T(urner)," "Verses written on the Back of an old Visitation Copy of the Arms of Dr. Priestley's Family, with Proposals for a new Escutcheon," "Written on a Marble," "To a Lady, with some Painted Flowers," "To the Miss Websters, with Dr. Aikin's `Wish,' which they expressed a desire to have a Copy of," and so forth. While the verse epistle was a common poetic form, Barbauld's variation on it--the poem not simply as letter but as small object or gift--asks us to evaluate this pattern in the context of her criticisms of literary property.

Certain of Barbauld's object poems, such as "Written on a Marble," employ the trope of inscription, while other poems were literally inscribed on or in the objects mentioned. For example, consider the production of "Verses written in the Leaves of an ivory pocket-book"; William Turner writes that Barbauld visited his family, and "at the close of her visit, she presented to the writer of this paper, then a little boy between seven and eight years old, an ivory memorandum book, on the leaves of which, after she was gone, were found written the following lines" (Poems 235). Similarly, several poems, such as "Lines with a Wedding Present," literally accompanied the gifts they name. Even poems not thematically presented as domestic objects or gifts were often treated as such. For instance, the story behind "The Mouse's Petition," is that Priestley found the poem waiting for him one morning, twisted among the wires of the cage housing a mouse he was planning to use for his experiments on gases (Poems 244). One wonders whether Barbauld left "Inventory" for Priestley to find on the desk in his study.

In inscribing and circulating these poems as miniature objects, Barbauld establishes an economy of exchange based not on the commodity-for-sale, but on the gift. (37) As Amanda Vickery argues, "home-made gifts were usually offered by women and were seen as time, labour and affection made concrete." (38) In this manner Barbauld defines her poetic labor as the consolidation of private, moral community, exploiting the association of women's writing with feminine handicrafts to distinguish her works from those sold for profit. (39) The emblem of private community was the home, and she presents several of her object poems as inscriptions on furniture or appliances in the home. For instance, "Lines placed over a Chimney-Piece" bless the fireplace and the home's spiritual warmth: "Love and Joy, and friendly mirth, / Shall bless this roof, these walls, this hearth" (13-14, Poems 98). These lines are meant to be part of the chimney they celebrate and bless. In the case of the object poems she chose not to publish, Barbauld's handwriting testified that her labor was of the hand--personal and artisanal rather than public and commercial. (40) But the logic remained the same in the case of the object poems she did print and publish: the trope of inscription on a gift evokes the labor of handwriting and the originary context of creation, resisting the status of the poem as a printed copy sold to an unnamed public. Thus Barbauld sought to transform exchange value to use value, resisting the alienation of her labor and the absorption of moral interests within economic commerce by inscribing her reader as receiver of a gift.

In many of these object poems Barbauld attempts to do more than give a gift, to establish a mode of circulation opposed to purely economic commerce; several poems criticize the connection between representation, property, and the economy of empire. In this sense Barbauld's gifts are instructional, seeking to elicit resistance as much as affective ties. "Written on a Marble," an unpublished poem likely composed while the Barbaulds were teaching at the Palgrave School, uses the miniature object to juxtapose schoolboy scuffles and wars over empire (Poems 103):
 The world's something bigger,
 But just of this figure
 And speckled with mountains and seas;
 Your heroes are overgrown schoolboys
 Who scuffle for empires and toys,
 And kick the poor ball as they please.
 Now Caesar, now Pompey, gives law;
 And Pharsalia's plain,
 Though heaped with the slain,
 Was only a game at taw.


Although the poem is not literally written on a marble, by using the trope of inscription Barbauld makes a visual analogy between the small poem and its object, implying that her poem as material object is akin to the marble as object. Thus the poem is embedded in the second analogy at work, that between a game of taw and nations fighting over empire; though bigger, the world is "just of this figure," figure referring both to the marble and to the poem's figural representation of it. Barbauld's use of the "figure" of the marble serves to undercut and deflate the claims of size and power. Miniaturizing power--showing it to be motivated by schoolboy greed and competition--exposes the small, petty ambitions that underlie battles such as Pharsalia's plain. As in "Inventory," her arrangement or juxtaposition of objects makes the invisible visible, enabling her to discuss objects in their circuits of exchange.

The connection between games at taw and wars for empire is more than figural, Barbauld implies. Toys were materially connected to empire; in the eighteenth century "children had become a trade, a field of commercial enterprise for the sharp-eyed entrepreneur." (41) John Brewer observes that "In 1730 there were no specialized toyshops of any kind, whereas by 1789 toyshops everywhere abounded, and by 1820 the trade in toys, as in children's literature, had become very large indeed" (Brewer 310). Not only did Britain's commercial growth and overseas trade influence the creation of new markets in "luxury" items such as children's toys, but the toys themselves often reflected national interests in growth and progress. For instance, popular toys often replicated, in miniature, machines such as printing presses and camera obscuras; also popular were toy soldiers and forts, and dolls' houses, toys that not only taught gender roles but which influenced attitudes towards the defense and value of property.

Barbauld, as an educator and writer of children's literature, actively contributed to this expanding market in children's education, welfare, and entertainment. But if children's toys often confirmed dominant values about property, Barbauld as educator sought to undo this link, to expose or denaturalize the connections between national interests and common objects. Thus, though "Written on a Marble" is on the one hand addressed to the adult reader potentially implicated in the engines of war and empire, it was also likely addressed to an audience whose conduct Barbauld held sway over: the boys she educated at the Palgrave school. Similarly, in "The Baby-House,' she presents the poem as a lesson given to a young girl, Agatha, about her toy's wider social and material significance. Barbauld exposes the values about property that the sale of dollhouses implicitly support; she warns Agatha, "think not ... you own / That toy, a Baby-House, alone" (19-20, Poems 177-78). Barbauld then proceeds to supply examples of the real houses these baby-houses invoke:
 The peasant faints beneath his load,
 Nor tastes the grain his hands have sowed,
 While scarce a nation's wealth avails
 To raise thy Baby-house, Versailles.
 And Baby-houses oft appear
 On British ground, of prince or peer;
 Awhile their stately heads they raise,
 The admiring traveller stops to gaze;
 He looks again--where are they now?
 Gone to the hammer or the plough;
 Then trees, the pride of ages, fall,
 And naked stands the pictured wall;
 And treasured coins from distant lands
 Must feel the touch of sordid hands;
 And gems, of classic stores the boast,
 Fall to the cry of--Who bids most?
 (37-52)


In supplying this context, Barbauld implicates the dollhouse in a system of class and national interests that sustains or replicates itself at the expense of nature ("trees, the pride of ages"), peasants, and unseen peoples from "distant lands." The "admiring traveller," like the innocent child playing with her toy, is unknowingly complicit in sustaining this system of class interests. In other words, by juxtaposing baby-houses with "something bigger, but just of this figure," Barbauld reveals that the idle games of children are connected to the "touch of sordid hands," the game of capital ("who bids most"). Barbauld's critique of property was certainly influenced by her gender; part of the project in her poems on the marble and dollhouse is an exposure of how everyday objects in their implication in a wider system of commerce and national interests support and sustain conventional gender roles. Joanna Baillie, a friend and protege of Barbauld's, also exposes the connections between gender roles and commerce in her two object poems ("Lines to a Teapot" and "Lines to a Parrot"), which similarly supply the histories of these objects and their implication in circuits of exchange supporting empire and patriarchy. (42) Although Barbauld's "gifts" are implicated in the system of commerce and consumption, contributing to the penchant for collecting toys and other items, she attempts to reveal and resist this status.

Drawing "lines to" objects is a useful characterization of Barbauld's project; rather than simply describe objects, she maps what is implicit, the lines that radiate outwards from objects to their implication in commerce and politics. In a lecture to young ladies on the uses of history and geography, Barbauld makes explicit the connection between visual, spatial mapping and the representation of politics and power. Geography, she argues, is one of the "eyes of History," and thus the study of maps reveals more than meets the eye:
 ... Thus geography, civil geography, would be seen to grow out of history;
 and the mere view of the map would suggest the political state of the world
 at any period.

 It would be a pleasing speculation to see how the arbitrary divisions of
 kingdoms and provinces vary and become obsolete, and large towns flourish
 and fall again into ruins; while the great natural features, the mountains,
 rivers, and seas remain unchanged, by whatever names we please to call
 them, whatever empire incloses them within its temporary boundaries. (43)


When one joins history to geography, the lines on maps appear as "temporary boundaries" that reflect the interests of empire and the state of politics; similarly, the names of "mountains, rivers, and seas" appear as "arbitrary" designations, symbols used to signify an ownership and control of land that is only temporary. From Barbauld's perspective, the claims to possession put forth by names and lines on maps are undermined by the fact of historical change (the rise and fall of regimes), and by the permanence of the "natural features" of the earth; human history is subsumed by the frame of natural history.

Barbauld's thoughts on geography clarify her use of mapping and description in her poetry; her own poetic miniatures, in supplying the history and contexts of geography (or the invisible frames supporting the visual, spatial world and its objects), seek to "unname" things, to resist the language, economy, and politics of property as practiced in late eighteenth-century England. The miniaturist text--that which explicitly presents itself as a slight, fanciful, visually detailed description--is thus peculiarly qualified to expose or sketch in the forces that spatialize and miniaturize it, that seek to limit its size and value. In Barbauld's hands, a map of the miniature becomes a history of the gigantic.

5. Juxtaposition and the Work of Translation

What we are now in a position to see is that Barbauld's use of the trope of vision, her emphasis on accurate description, encodes a moral politics. Accuracy is the cornerstone of a miniaturist representation supposedly limited to the accumulation of tiny visual detail, yet which strays from this task to reveal "circumstance" as the unspoken or hidden interests of power. Through her absorption into seeing and the objects she describes, or what I have called the "illegible signature," Barbauld turns language outwards, focusing on how language mediates objects, perspective, and power. While the poet is the "seer" in these poems, sincerity functions not as evidence of the poet's autobiographical experience, but as an index of her ethical use of representation; sincerity in Barbauld's writings refers to the use of language with attention to its power to speak for, expose, or represent others, and conversely, the power to misrepresent and exploit suffering.

Barbauld clarifies the ethical aspects of sincerity in the tracts she wrote in the early 1790's for appointed fasts, "Sins of Government, Sins of the Nation" (1793) and "Reasons for National Penitence" (1794). (44) The tracts define their occasion as a communal reflection on sin, but merge religious and political conduct; as Barbauld states in "National Penitence," "If we have committed any sins as a nation, we are called upon to confess them with sincere and unfeigned penitence.... We must resolve to turn from our evil conduct; and we must listen to a lesson of instruction, under the pressure of affliction. Unless we do this, the confession of our crimes will resemble the timid and superstitious devotion of savages" ("National Penitence" v). In asking for sincere confessions, Barbauld locates individual responsibility for national political conduct at the level of responsibility for language. She articulates a political economy of representation in which everyday language use contributes to the system of representative government. Simply put, individuals express political citizenship not through the exercise of the vote, but by using language sincerely, a moral practice open to all persons. Misrepresentation is thus an act of political violence, for it infringes on the political rights of others:
 If you slander a good man, you are answerable for all the violence of which
 that slander may be the remote cause; if you raise undue prejudices against
 any particular class or description of citizens, and they suffer through
 the bad passions your misrepresentations have worked up against them, you
 are answerable for the injury, though you have not wielded the bludgeon or
 applied the firebrand.... ("Sins of Government" 409)


As political citizens, individuals must take responsibility for hypocrisy regarding national political conduct:
 ... for we can not surely exclaim with sincerity, that we are fighting to
 restore order and authority to a country, if treasons and rebellions have
 been the fruit of our intrigues, and if anarchy and dissention have formed
 a part of our policy. We have looked "like the innocent flower," but we
 have really been "the serpent under it," if we have displayed, by this
 perverse and inconsistent conduct, our zeal for the blessings of peaceful
 and regular government. ("Reasons for National Penitence" xi).


More trenchantly, in both tracts Barbauld argues that insincere representation is used to justify the goal of national economic interests, regardless of who is oppressed or killed in this pursuit. She describes the ways in which the language of religion, the "blessing of God," is used to justify war and imperialism: "... we have calmly voted slaughter and merchandized destruction--so much blood and tears for so many rupees, or dollars, or ingots. Our wars have been wars of cool calculating interest, as free from hatred as from love of mankind ..." ("Sins of Government" 401). Barbauld asks that individuals rewrite such prayers in "plain language," stripped of hypocrisy: "God of love ... we beseech thee to assist us in the work of slaughter. Whatever mischief we do, we shall do it in thy name; we hope, therefore, thou will protect us in it" (403-4). What Barbauld calls for in the use of sincere representation is an act of translation:
 We should, therefore, do well to translate this word war into language more
 intelligible to us. When we pay our army and our navy estimates, let us set
 down--so much for killing, so much for maiming, so much for making widows
 and orphans, so much for bringing famine upon a district, so much for
 corrupting citizens and subjects into spies and traitors, so much for
 ruining industrious tradesmen and making bankrupts ... so much for letting
 loose the daemons of fury rapine and lust within the fold of cultivated
 society, and giving to the brutal ferocity of the most ferocious, its full
 scope and range of invention. ("Sins of Government" 401)


Translation involves denaturalizing a word such as "war," translating its exchange value to use value, profits to human costs, coins into maimed bodies. It is the process Barbauld tries to elicit from readers of her object poems when she juxtaposes a decontextualized object with its history in economic and political affairs.

Translation works not through sympathetic identification, but through the juxtaposition of scale and perspective. Barbauld was well aware of the limits of sympathetic identification; the failure of sympathy to produce political change is the occasion of "Epistle to Wilberforce," in which Barbauld comments: "The Preacher, Poet, Senator in vain / Has rattled in her sight the Negro's Chain," for Britain "knows and she persists--Still Afric bleeds, / Uncheck'd, the human traffic still proceeds" (3-4, 15-16, Poems 114-18). Emotional rhetoric is powerless against the desire for profit: "All, from conflicting ranks, of power possest, / To rouse, to melt, or to inform the breast. / Where seasoned tools of avarice prevail, / A Nation's eloquence, combined, must fail ..." (23-26). Barbauld also thematizes the limits of her own power to effect change. In "On Education," she points out these limits, arguing that "a fast, or a sermon, are prescriptions of very little efficacy" compared to the power of circumstance. (45)

Rather than ask for identification with the oppressed, Barbauld employs a literature of limits, one that exposes the gaps in and barriers to sympathetic identification, and the labor required to oppose "circumstance" and achieve shifts in power. The political labor she describes is by definition difficult and painstaking:
 We want principles, not to figure in a book of ethics, or to delight us
 with "grand and swelling sentiments"; but principles by which we may act
 and by which we may suffer. Principles of benevolence, to dispose us to
 real sacrifices; political principles, of practical utility; principles of
 religion, to comfort and support us under all the trying vicissitudes we
 see around us.... Principles, such as I have been recommending, are not the
 work of a day. ("Sins of Government" 411-12)


While sermons were well-suited to inspiring this labor, I want to conclude by suggesting that Barbauld's miniaturist poetry was also involved in the ethical project of translation and sincere language-use, but went about its task in a different manner. Rather than preach, her poetry instructs readers by stimulating their imagination and reasoning abilities. Play and pleasure are central to Barbauld's educational method and political aims, and this helps to explain the curious mixture of lightness and gravity in her poetry. (46) Barbauld in fact wrote many "puzzle" and "riddle" poems, aimed to teach children to sharpen their use of reason and imagination. (47) Her object poems are also puzzles of a sort; juxtapositions of scale ask the reader to consider spatial relationships and societal relationships, and to interrogate their own "frame" or perspective. Barbauld asks readers to leave their shoes not to stand in those of another, as in sympathetic identification, but momentarily to take the position of the map-maker, who looks down upon the world so as to ask how and why the map changes.

Barbauld articulates the importance and curious weight of her delicate labor at the end of "Washing Day," a poem in which she compares the labor of writing with the female work of washing (Poems 133-35):
 At intervals my mother's voice was heard,
 Urging dispatch; briskly the work went on,
 All hands employed to wash, to rinse, to wring,
 To fold, and starch, and clap, and iron, and plait.
 Then would I sit me down, and ponder much
 Why washings were. Sometimes thro' hollow bole
 Of pipe amused we blew, and sent aloft
 The floating bubbles, little dreaming then
 To see, Mongolfier, thy silken ball
 Ride buoyant thro' the clouds--so near approach
 The sports of children and the toils of men.
 Earth, air, and sky, and ocean, hath its bubbles,
 And verse is one of them--this most of all.
 (74-86)


As Marion Ross argues, "The disparity between the child's leisure, the capacity to sit and ponder, and the women's endless hard work ... is akin to Wordsworth's sense that the hard work of building a nation is at odds with the idle pursuit of poetry. But whereas Wordsworth attempts to recuperate poeticizing as hard work ... Barbauld is satisfied to let the disparity stand" (Contours 228). Even more pointedly, Barbauld implies that the hard work of nation-building is achieved through the idle pursuit of poetry. The juxtapositions in the poem--between the child's play and the women's work, between the child's bubble and Barbauld's verse, between the verse bubble and Montgolfier's balloon--ask the reader to make connections, to "ponder" how these disparate activities are mutually implicated, just as they are asked to ponder how a toy marble is implicated in the struggle for empire. Barbauld's labor, thematized in the poem ("then would I sit me down, and ponder much"), is to set up these juxtapositions and to inspire the reader to ponder them. And it is ultimately her labor that connects the disparate activities in the poem: her verse bubble is connected to Montgolfier's balloon, the sports of children to the toils of men, in that both are the product of the flights of leisured imagination, of the power of the mind to make unexpected connections. Indeed, the way in which the poem spatially describes the child blowing bubbles implies that Montgolfier's balloon emerges from her pipe, or that the practice of imagination directly impacts scientific invention. (48) Although Barbauld's verse bubble is shaped by the limits of her domestic role, she shows that her verse bubble allows her to venture out of the domestic domain and to participate in and shape, however invisibly (i.e. through the nameless, propertyless medium of language) "the toils of men."

Like Montgolfier's balloon, Barbauld's verse bubble surveys the landscape from a superior vantage point, the mapmaker's perspective. (49) Yet Barbauld, by exposing the lines drawn from the tiny bubble to the balloon, from washing to nation-building, not only sees the map, but also sees backwards and forwards into history, sees that the names and boundaries distinguishing the sports of children from the toils of men are a product of circumstance that can change. As Elizabeth Bishop states in "The Map," "More delicate than the historians' are the map-makers' colors." (50) It is the delicacy of the mapmaker that permits Barbauld's confidence: that as a miniaturist who makes visible the vicissitudes of history, property and empire, her bubble of breath can perhaps escape the weight of circumstance:
 It is impossible to contemplate without a sentiment of reverence and
 enthusiasm, these venerable writings which have survived the wreck of
 empires; and, what is more, of languages; which have received the awful
 stamp of immortality, and are crowned with the applause of so many
 successive ages. It is wonderful that words should live so much longer than
 marble temples;--words, which at first are only uttered breath; and, when
 afterwards enshrined and fixed in a visible form by the admirable invention
 of writing, committed to such frail and perishable materials: yet the light
 paper bark floats down the stream of time, and lives through the storms
 which have sunk so many stronger built vessels. ("On the Classics," A
 Legacy for Young Ladies 31)


A version of this paper was presented at the 1997 NASSR Conference in Hamilton, Ontario. I would like to thank Marlon Ross, Majorie Levinson and Rei Terada for their comments on an earlier draft.

(1.) See Betsy Rodgers, Georgian Chronicle: Mrs. Barbauld & Her Family (London: Methuen, 1958) 33-63.

(2.) Priestley wrote in his memoirs that "Mrs Barbauld has told me that it was the perusal of some verses of mine that first induced her to write anything in verse.... Several of her first poems were written while she was in my house, on occasions that occurred while she was there." Cited in Rodgers, Georgian Chronicle 57. See also "Introduction," The Poems of Anna Laetitia Barbauld, eds. William McCarthy and Elizabeth Kraft (Athens and London: U of Georgia P, 1994) xxix. Cited hereafter as Poems.

(3.) "Letter One," from "On the Uses of History," A Legacy for Young Ladies, Consisting of Miscellaneous Pieces, in Prose and Verse, by the Late Mrs. Barbauld (London: Longman et al, 1826; Providence, RI: Brown/NEH Women Writer's Project, 1993) 21.

(4.) All information on publication history comes from McCarthy and Kraft, "Introduction" and "Sources of the Poems," Poems (xxxi, xxxv-xxxvii, 356-63). In their Introduction, McCarthy and Kraft note that Barbauld's manuscripts reached a powerful literary audience, including William Woodfall, the first reviewer of the Poems, and Oliver Goldsmith. Lucy Aikin, Barbauld's niece who prepared the posthumous collection of Barbauld's poetry in 1825, wrote that it was only through Barbauld's brother's insistence that "her Poems were selected, revised, and arranged for publication" in 1773 (Poems xxx). The Eyres printing press was located in Warrington, and "became the foremost provincial press," printing many works of the dissenters (Rodgers 49).

(5.) Poems (1773) contained 33 poems, and Barbauld published 22 additional poems during her lifetime. Lucy Aikin published 52 poems in the collected Works (1825), claiming that they had been chosen by Barbauld (Poems xxxi). The 1993 collection includes 24 further poems, and McCarthy and Kraft speculate that many other poems have been lost (Poems xxxv).

(6.) Edward Jacobs argues that many women writers began their careers by publishing with circulating libraries, and that a disproportionate number of works published in this manner were anonymous. Typically, however, "once these authors made a name, they usually sold it to members of the established network of publishers against whom circulating libraries were trying to compete in the first place." Edward Jacobs, "Anonymous Signatures: Circulating Libraries, Conventionality, and the Production of Gothic Romances," ELH 62 (1995): 620.

(7.) Carol Shiner Wilson, "Lost Needles, Tangled Threads: Stitchery, Domesticity, and the Artistic Enterprise in Barbauld, Edgeworth, Taylor, and Lamb," Re-Visioning Romanticism: British Women Writers, 1776-1837, eds. Carol Shiner Wilson and Joel Haefner (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1994) 181. William McCarthy argues that recent commentators have found Barbauld and her poetry "disappointingly unfeminist." In doing so, they follow the lead of Mary Wollstonecraft in her caustic dismissal of Barbauld's poem "To a Lady, With Some Painted Flowers" in Vindication. See, "`We Hoped the Woman Was Going to Appear: Repression, Desire, and Gender in Anna Letitia Barbauld's Early Poems," Romantic Women Writers: Voices and Counter-Voices, eds. Paula R. Feldman and Theresa M. Kelley (Hanover: Associated UP of New England, 1995) 114-15.

(8.) McCarthy argues for a "feminist understanding of her need to idealize the female in the way she does" (115). Previous criticism, he asserts, overlooks the personal or biographical origins of Barbauld's poetry, which is often displaced or idealized. To read the poetry through the lens of biography is to materialize Barbauld's coded endorsements of female desire and pleasure. Isobel Armstrong reads Barbauld's "Inscription for an Ice-House" not as a minor poem, but as an engagement with Malthus, Adam Smith, Hume, and Burke. She also argues that the language of "emotion, affect, and feeling" does not simply signal entrapment by a culture that conflates female experience with bodily sensation, but functions as an analytical language, one concerned with the foundations of epistemology ("The Gush of the Feminine: How Can We Read Women's Poetry of the Romantic Period?" Romantic Women Writers 25). Marion Ross re-evaluates Barbauld's poetry by arguing that we must approach women's political discourse of the early romantic period in the context of dissent. Ross asserts that to speak about politics as a woman was necessarily to occupy a position of dissent, to oppose the political establishment. Nor is it a coincidence, he points out, that many politicized women were religious nonconformists, given that dissent was a tradition that emphasized freedom of conscience and civil liberties. For the dissenting woman, isolation from political power was not simply a limit but an advantage, for it provided her with a political voice uncontaminated by "the corrupt interests of established power" (92); conformity to "feminine caution and decorous conduct" spelled not an absence of politics but a veiled, complicitous politics of dissent, one contingent on "feminine purity" as "political advantage" ("Configurations of Feminine Reform: The Woman Writer and the Tradition of Dissent," Re-Visioning Romanticism 92, 94).

(9.) In this respect Barbauld has much in common not only with Hannah More, but with Wollstonecraft and Jane Austen in their critiques of sensibility. In her use of the miniature object as the site of this critique of sensibility, Barbauld anticipates Austen as what Poovey calls a "self-confident miniaturist." Austen described the canvas of her novels as "the little bit (two inches wide) of Ivory on which I work with so fine a Brush, as produces little effect after much labour." Labour, then, exists in inverse proportion to production. Mary Poovey, The Proper Lady and the Woman Writer: Ideology as Style in the Works of Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, and Jane Austen (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1984) 173.

(10.) McCarthy and Kraft state that this poem was perhaps written around 1771; however, given the discussion of flames and violence in the poem, and the references to Priestley's books and scientific instruments (Priestley's library and laboratory were burned in the Birmingham riots of 1792), I wonder whether the poem was perhaps written after the riots. If so, the "inventory" becomes a more explicitly ironic meditation on Priestley's politics and their relation to property. The poem was not published until after Barbauld's death, in the 1825 Works.

(11.) On the gendering of imagination and fancy as used by romantic poets, see Marion Ross, The Contours of Masculine Desire: Romanticism and the Rise of Women's Poetry (NY, Oxford: Oxford UP, 1989) 155-86. See also Julie Ellison, "The Politics of Fancy in the Age of Sensibility," Re-Visioning Romanticism 228-55 and "`Nice Arts' and `Potent Enginery': The Gendered Economy of Wordsworth's Fancy," Centennial Review 33 (1989): 441-67. On the gendering of the detail, see Naomi Schor, Reading in Detail: Aesthetics and the Feminine (NY, London: Routledge, 1987) 4, 20. Although she doesn't use the concept of the miniature, Judith Pascoe connects Charlotte Smith's interest in detailed botanical observation with a desire to expand the reach of her poetry beyond the domestic sphere. "Female Botanists and the Poetry of Charlotte Smith," Re-Visioning Romanticism 204-5. The best study of the miniature object and the ways in which writers represent it is Susan Stewart's chapter, "The Miniature," from On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection (Durham: Duke UP, 1993) 37-69. Svetlana Alpers' discussion of seventeenth-century Dutch art, famous for its miniaturist visual detail, is also relevant to my discussion of Barbauld's visual tactics. The Dutch artist is characterized by absorption in what is seen, is defined by his "selflessness or anonymity." Alpers describes a painting of David Bailly, called "Still Life" (1651) in which the artist paints himself surrounded by a variety of objects; the method is that of the inventory or catalogue, the artist another "object" in this display. The Art of Describing: Dutch Art in the Seventeenth Century (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1983) xxi, 83, 106.

(12.) Specifically, the Corporation and Test acts required that anyone who held office in any Corporation, or who was elected to public or to military office, take the Sacrament according to the rites of the Church of England; these acts effectively barred dissenters from holding political orifice. Some dissenters, by pledging "occasional conformity," were elected to public office, but at the cost of their religious beliefs. Dissenters were also barred from the universities, hence the institution of academies such as Warrington. The Corporation and Test Acts were not repealed until 1828.

Most dissenters were involved in commerce or in the professions, but were not holders of landed property. Property in the eighteenth century was the most effective guarantee of political representation. As Linda Colley notes, "members of the landed elite made up over 75 percent of the Commons' membership as late as 1867." Peers were also usually "men with landed estates to their name." Moreover, "landed men virtually monopolised high office at the royal court and were massively over-represented in the upper ranks of the army and navy, in the diplomatic and colonial service, in the hierarchy of the Church of England and in the administration of justice," Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837 (New Haven: Yale UP, 1992) 61.

Barbauld and Priestley were Unitarians, a sect that was "intellectual in their orientation, influenced by science and philosophy, and admiring analytic skills in their ministers." Unitarians were concentrated in Essex, Stoke Newington, and Birmingham. Leonore Davidoff and Catherine Hall suggest that this sect was unusually persecuted given their belief in the human nature of Jesus, Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class, 1780-1850 (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1987) 96-97.

(13.) The Birmingham Riot occurred on July 14-17, 1791. The homes of several Birmingham dissenters, including Priestley, were sacked and burned by a "church and king mob." The riot was ostensibly instigated by a public dinner held in Birmingham to celebrate Bastille Day. The mob ransacked two Unitarian meeting-houses and one baptist meeting house, released prisoners, and burned and looted shops and houses of dissenters including Priestley's home. E. P. Thompson suggests that while there was legitimate resentment against the wealth and reformist tactics of some dissenters, several Tory magistrates and clergy were certainly involved in organizing the riots. Apparently the magistrates directed the rioters to the unitarian meeting houses and would not intervene nor prosecute those involved. Priestley himself printed evidence in support of this theory. E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class, 80-81, 85; R. B. Rose, "The Priestley Riots of 1791," Past and Present (Nov. 1960): 68-88.

(14.) The Poems of Alexander Pope, ed. John Butt (New Haven: Yale UP, 1963). Citations are to the Dunciad Variorum. McCarthy and Kraft suggest the Dunciad as a subtext for Barbauld's "Inventory" (Poems 248).

(15.) See Marion Ross, "Authority and Authenticity: Scribbling Authors and the Genius of Print in Eighteenth-Century England," The Construction of Authorship: Textual Appropriation in Law and Literature, eds. Martha Woodmansee and Peter Jaszi (Durham: Duke UP, 1994) 231-57. Ross argues that "the only way Pope can assert the authority of the author is to denounce the constant usurpation of illegitimate authority by illegitimate heirs to the throne of poesy." Ross argues that Pope achieves this by over-naming: "He forces us to remember the names of those whom he wants forgotten, for those names become, in his authoritative rendering, exactly that: mere names, phantoms of voices, rather than real voices that can command our attention" (244-45).

(16.) Davidoff and Hall note that Unitarians "disliked the zeal and enthusiasm of the evangelicals, particularly the ways in which they relied on an appeal to emotion rather than reason ..." (Family Fortunes 95).

(17.) Many professional men in market towns such as Birmingham practiced their profession at home, dedicating a room or rooms within the house to this purpose. Thus the house itself was divided into areas that were "public" and "private" (Davidoff and Hall, Family Fortunes 366).

(18.) Laura Mandell describes Barbauld's critical project as one of exposure and demystification in her excellent article on Barbauld's politics of personification. She states: "Disputing the imaginary `nation' advanced by emerging bourgeois ideology, Barbauld uses personification to demystify its `realist' discourse. Her political theories and poetry interrogate the fiction of a non-aesthetic, non-ideological truth" ("Those Limbs Disjointed of Gigantic Power": Barbauld's Personifications and the (Mis)Attribution of Political Agency," SiR 37 [Spring 1998]: 30).

(19.) Ann Taylor Gilbert, a dissenting poet also from the Suffolk/Norfolk region, wrote a poem titled "Remonstrance" which states: "our conquest is composed retreat; Concealment our renown." Cited in Davidoff and Hall 457; originally published in J. Conder, ed. Associate Minstrels 1812. Barbauld states in a poem titled "To Mr. Barbauld, November 14, 1778": "Our bliss, all inward and our own, / Would only tarnished be, by being shown" (31-32; Poems 91-92). Air--related to the poetic breath--is what contaminates or tarnishes the privacy of their bliss; hence the poem which celebrates this bliss must itself avoid visibility.

(20.) Barbauld has several poems which address (and admonish) the melancholic poet more generally: "Autumn, a Fragment," "Verses Written in an Alcove," "Verses on Mrs. Rowe," and "An Address to the Deity." Catherine Moore notes that in Barbauld's criticism of female novelists, she prefers "sense to sensibility." "`Ladies ... Taking the Pen in Hand': Mrs. Barbauld's Criticism of Eighteenth-Century Women Novelists," Fetter'd or Free? British Women Novelists, 1670-1815, eds. Mary Anne Schofield and Cecilia Macheski (Athens: Ohio UP, 1986) 392. "To Mr. S. T. Coleridge," was published anonymously in 1799 in the Monthly Magazine. A conjectural attribution in the Kraft and McCarthy volume suggests that Barbauld wrote a poem that rebukes Southey, published in the Gentleman's Magazine in 1799 and signed "a Lady." Significantly, Southey's attitude towards Barbauld became harsh after 1799 (Poems 333). Although many of the male romantics had met Barbauld, they were very critical of her. Southey was behind the Quarterly review of "1811," a review so vicious that Barbauld did not publish again (Rodgers 140-42). Coleridge ridiculed Barbauld in his lectures on Shakespeare in 1808 (Rodgers 148). Wordsworth wrote that Barbauld "was spoiled as a poetess by being a dissenter," though Crabb Robinson reported that Wordsworth thought her the "first of our literary women" (Rodgers 149). Charles Lamb damned the "cursed Barbauld crew" in a letter to Coleridge, arguing that Barbauld's children's literature had replaced poetry with science. Rod McGillis, "That Great Writer in the English Language," Children's Literature Association Quarterly 13.4 (1988): 162-64.

(21.) The relationship between dissent and support for the French Revolution is a complex one. Davidoff and Hall argue that many dissenters originally supported the revolution, allying their own desire for civil liberties with those of the French. Anglicans feared this alliance, and viewed presbyterian principles as by definition republican. Following the Priestley riots of 1791, many dissenters retreated into social and political conservatism (Family Fortunes 96-97). On the significance of re-naming in the French Revolution see Mona Ozouf, "Revolutionary Calendar," A Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution, eds. Francois Furet and Mona Ozouf, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1989) 538-47.

(22.) Barbauld's letters at this time indicate her fear of persecution. To her son, Barbauld wrote that some of the ministers printed the lines to Dr. Priestley, but "of the Dialogue & fragment do not give any copies & do not read & show the Historical fragment, except to our particular friends, & return it to me when you have an opportunity because some things in it would appear too free if read to any but friends. Never within my memory, did public affairs occupy so large a space in the minds of every one, or give such scope to conjecture" (Rodgers 211).

(23.) Mary Ruth Hiller, "The Identification of Authors: The Great Victorian Enigma," Victorian Periodicals: A Guide to Research, eds. J. Don Vann and Rosemary T. Van Arsdel (NY: MLA, 1978) 124. Kathryn Shevelow, Women and Print Culture: The Construction of Femininity in the Early Periodical (London, NY: Routledge, 1989) 71-72.

(24.) James M. Kuist, ed. The Nichols File of The Gentleman's Magazine: Attributions of Authorship and Other Documentation in Editorial Papers at the Folger Library (Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1982) vii, 18-20.

(25.) See Hiller 126; Kelly Mays, "The Disease of Reading and Victorian Periodicals," Literature in the Marketplace: Nineteenth-Century British Publishing and Reading Practices, eds. John O. Jordan and Robert L. Patten (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995) 168; Joanne Shattock, Politics and Reviewers: The Edinburgh and the Quarterly in the Early Victorian Age (London, Leicester, NY: Leicester UP, 1989) 16.

(26.) John Edward Haynes lists the various types of fictitious names as pseudonyms, anonyms, anagrams (transposing letters of the name), phraseonyms (a phrase related to the subject matter), titlenyms (use of a title), and initialism (use of one or more initials, often in combination with dashes or stars). The reasons for using fictitious names that he lists include modesty, fear of personal injury, and desire to increase sales of a work by inspiring curiosity. John Edward Haynes, "Preface," Pseudonyms of Authors, Including Anonyms and Initialism (New York, 1882). Dr. James Kennedy also surveys the reasons for uses of fictitious names, citing timidity, diffidence, fear of consequences, and shame. Kennedy notes that the different kinds of name-disguises offer "varying degrees of concealment.... An author may desire to remain unknown to the general public only, and may therefore adopt a pseudonym which is transparent to his friends.... "The use of initials and dashes also falls under this category; friends of the author can easily recognize the true identity. While he notes that the number of authors who sign works with their initials is "very large," he does not speculate as to why this is the case. Dr. James Kennedy, ed. "Notes on Anonymity and Pseudonymity," Dictionary, of Anonymous and Pseudonymous English Literature, New and Enlarged Edition (London: Oliver and Boyd, 1926).

(27.) Margaret Ezell, however, notes earlier studies of name disguise, including Vincent Placcius' Theatrum Anonynorum et Pseudonymoron (1674) and Adrien Baillet's Auteurs deguisez (1690). Margaret J. M. Ezell, "Reading Pseudonyms in Seventeenth-Century English Coterie Literature," Essays in Literature 21 (1994): 14. Ralph Thomas considers his work "the first of the kind, so far as we know, that has ever been attempted in the English language" (ix). Certainly the appearance of many such works in the late nineteenth century is significant, although earlier guides had appeared.

(28.) Margaret Ezell points out that pseudonyms often served not as protective masks, but as passwords to signal membership in an exclusive small group (18, 21).

(29.) Judith Pascoe, Romantic Theatricality: Gender, Poetry, and Spectatorship (Ithaca, London: Cornell UP, 1997) 178.

(30.) Catherine Gallagher, Nobody's Story: The Vanishing Acts of Women Writers in the Marketplace, 1670-1820 (Berkeley: U of California P, 1995). Mary Jacobus, "Splitting the Race of Man in Twain: Prostitution, Personification, and The Prelude," Romanticism, Writing, and Difference: Essays on The Prelude (Oxford: Clarendon, 1989) 260-36. Judith Pascoe, "Theatricality and the Literary Marketplace: Poetry Publication in the Morning Post," Romantic Theatricality 163-83. Pascoe notes that Robinson as well as Coleridge and Southey at various times use anonyms, pseudonyms, or their proper names, without apparent rationale, signifying the blurring of the line between theatrical and authentic or natural modes of self-representation. Catherine Gallagher like Pascoe ascribes agency to women writers' uses of anonyms and fictional personae; she argues in her study of eighteenth-century women novelists that to go nameless was not to be a "nobody"; the anonym or the dash signifies "an outside where a referent too important to be named waits to be discovered" (213).

(31.) See Catherine Gallagher, Nobody's Story 155-56; Mark Rose, "The Author in Court: Pope v. Curll (1741)," The Construction of Authorship: Textual Appropriation in Law and Literature, eds. Martha Woodmansee and Peter Jaszi (Durham: Duke UP, 1994) 211-29.

(32.) Esther Schor makes this argument in Bearing the Dead: The British Culture of Mourning From the Enlightenment to Victoria (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1994) 50-51.

(33.) William Wordsworth, The Prelude 1799, 1805, 1850, eds. Jonathan Wordsworth, M. H. Abrams, Stephen Gill (NY, London: Norton, 1979), Book 7, lines 703-5.

(34.) Barbauld lectures children on this very topic in "A Lecture on the Use of Words," stating that not only is lying wrong, but that they must strive to use language accurately; imprecision itself is a fault, "it hurts our sincerity" (A Legacy for Young Ladies 13).

(35.) See Sarah Zimmerman, "Charlotte Smith's Letters and the Practice of Self-Presentation," Princeton University Library Chronicle 53 (1991): 59.

(36.) I am grateful to Rei Terada for this suggestion. Barbauld's introduction to Smith's The Old Manor House in The British Novelists (1810) indicates that Barbauld conflates Smith's insistence on her sincerity with her tone of complaint: "her later publications would have been more pleasing, if the author, in the exertions of fancy, could have forgotten herself; but the asperity of invective and the querulousness of complaint too frequently cloud the happier exertions of her imagination" (The British Novelists; with an Essay and Prefaces, Biographical and Critical, vol. 36 [London 1810] viii).

(37.) Charles Rzepka argues that De Quincey presents his Confessions as a gift rather than as a commodity to mystify his status as a "writer for hire." His writings "are meant to be enjoyed by their recipients as offerings of affection, sympathy, and understanding, not as commodities alienable from the personality of their producer." The gift economy positions De Quincey "at the margins of the market economy" (Sacramental Commodities: Girl, Text, and the Sublime in De Quincey [Amherst: U of Massachusetts P, 1995] 17, 25). Similarly, E. P. Thompson's notion of "moral economy" is useful as a frame for understanding writers' attempts to establish a gift economy within the marketplace in the eighteenth century ("The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century," Customs in Common [NY: The New P, 1993] 185-258).

(38.) Amanda Vickery, "Women and the World of Goods: A Lancashire Consumer and Her Possessions, 1751-81," Consumption and the World of Goods, eds. John Brewer and Roy Porter (London and NY: Routledge, 1993) 286-87.

(39.) Simon Schaffer discusses Priestley's History of Electricity, noting that "Good marketing was a key to his literary career. So was political networking: the `Society of Honest Whigs' at St. Paul's Coffee House helped him get access to metropolitan savants. His radical friends engineered election to the Royal Society in 1766 to help sales of the History. Priestley also formed a crucial connection with the great radical bookseller Joseph Johnson.... Priestley's highly successful work, which ran to three substantial editions in six years, was accompanied by a cheaper booklet for amateurs, designed effectively to compete with the handbooks of Martin and his colleagues," in "The Consuming Flame: Electrical Showmen and Tory Mystics in the World of Goods" (Consumption and the World of Goods 513).

(40.) Susan Stewart argues that the sign of the miniature is the hand; not only can miniatures be held in the hand, but they are often presented as hand-made. She comments: "Whereas industrial labor is marked by the prevalence of repetition over skill and part over whole, the miniature object represents an antithetical mode of production: production by the hand, a production that is unique and authentic" (68). See also Alpers 72.

(41.) J. H. Plumb, "The New World of Children in Eighteenth-Century England," The Birth of a Consumer Society: The Commercialization of Eighteenth-Century England, eds. Neil McKendrick, John Brewer, J. H. Plumb (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1982) 310.

(42.) Joanna Baillie, Fugitive Verses (London: Edward Moxon, 1840) 153-67. Baillie, however, addresses not the child but the collector, whose penchant for exotic items also sustained empire. Andrea Henderson argues that although Baillie attempts to oppose consumerism in the "Introductory Discourse" to her first volume of plays, this work is influenced by the logic of late-eighteenth-century consumerism in its emphasis on "the subtle and intellectual pleasures of collecting" ("Passion and Fashion in Joanna Baillie's `Introductory Discourse,'" PMLA 112.2 [March 1997]: 199).

(43.) Anna Laetitia Barbauld, "Letter 111" from "On the Uses of History," A Legacy for Young Ladies 50.

(44.) Anna Laetitia Barbauld, "Sins of Government, Sins of the Nation," The Works with a Memoir by Lucy Aikin, ed. Lucy Aikin, 2 vols. (London: Longman, 1825) 1.381-412. "Reasons for National Penitence" (London: G. G. and J. Robinson, 1794; Providence, RI: Brown/NEH Women Writer's Project, 1993). Benjamin Flower printed extracts of "Sins of Government" on July 20, August 31, and October 4, 1793 in the Cambridge Intelligencer.

(45.) Anna Laetitia Barbauld "On Education," The Works with a Memoir by Lucy Aikin 1.320.

(46.) Isobel Armstrong writes that Barbauld "had perfected a language which combined gravitas with sensuous delicacy, magisterial weight with limber syntax." See, "Caterpillar on the Skin," Times Literary Supplement, 12 July 1996: 28.

(47.) Barbauld wrote a variety of puzzle poems, including "Enigma," "Logogriph," and at least six "riddle" poems. She states in "On Riddles," A Legacy for Young Ladies:

Finding out riddles is the same kind of exercise to the mind which running and leaping and wrestling in sport are to the body. They are of no use in themselves,--they are not work but play; but they prepare the body, and make it alert and active for any thing it may be called to perform in labour or war. So does the finding of riddles, if they are good especially, give quickness of thought, and a facility of turning about a problem every way, and viewing it in every possible light. (15)

(48.) Barbauld was very interested in ballooning, and watched an exhibition in 1784. The Montgolfier brothers launched the first balloon in 1783 in France; the English believed that Priestley's discovery of oxygen was directly responsible for this invention (Poems 298).

(49.) For eighteenth-century illustrations of the view of earth from the perspective of a hot-air balloon, see Barbara Stafford, Voyage Into Substance: Art, Science, Nature, and the Illustrated Travel Account, 1760-1540 (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1984), especially Figures 100 and 155.

(50.) The Complete Poems, 1927-1979 (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1979) 3.

SUSAN ROSENBAUM is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Georgia. She is completing a book on lyric sincerity and professional authorship, of which the essay published here forms a part.
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