Who were the women poets of the eighteenth century? More than a hundred are represented in this anthology, yet only few have hitherto featured in conventional surveys and anthologies of eighteenth-century verse. Unlike the women who wrote fiction, the vast majority of those who wrote verse have been ignored and forgotten since their own day. Yet they speak with vigour and immediacy, in a range of moods from the resentful and melancholic to the humorous and exuberant; about the world they lived in and their experience of life in town and country, of love and marriage. Nor were they all from one social class: as the biographical headnotes reveal, women at all levels of society, washerwomen and duchesses, both wrote and found their way into print. Usually most at ease writing in informal and unpretentious verse, the women poets grew in confidence during the century, writing eventually in a great variety of poetic forms and on public as well as private topics. The writers in this wide-ranging and unpredictable anthology open a new perspective on their age, and provide the grounds for a reassessment of a neglected aspect of its literature. Roger Lonsdale edited the New Oxford Book of Eighteenth-Century Verse.
Roger Lonsdale is Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford, and Fellow of Balliol College. His publications include Dr Charles Burney: A Literary Biography (1965), The Poems of Gray, Collins and Goldsmith (1969), and The New Oxford Book of Eighteenth-Century Verse (1984).