Your first job is to locate the volume entitled Poems by Anna Laetitia Aikin, published in 1773 by Joseph Johnson
Examine the title page and its presentation of information. What can you learn about the volume from the title page?
Staves writes: “The best volume of poetry published by a woman during this period (1756-1776) was probably Anna Letitia Aikin’s Poems (1772)” (319).
Evaluate her assessment in the context of this course.
According to Staves the following poets have influenced Aikin: Rowe, Young, Collins, Parnell, Finch and Carter (319). What evidence might you find for that
in the volume?
Comment upon Aikin's use of imagery from natural history (science) and the intellectual circle of Warrington Academy, which included
her father (a Presbyterian minister) and Joseph Priestley, the famous scientist who discovered oxygen.
Staves places her in the second generation of Bluestockings: “Yet, like most members of what can be thought of as a more
dispersed second generation of bluestockings, Aikin here is more torn between ambition and a modest acceptance
of female limitations than Montague or Carter” (320). In what sense is this collection more openly ambitious? In what sense does it follow in the tradition of
the first generation of Bluestockings?
We might compare Carter’s To Wisdom with Aikin’s, as well as Carter’s Verses on Mrs. Rowe to Aikin’s. What is the significance of their sharing these titles/subjects?
Note the political and progressive nature of "Corsica." What do you know about Corsica at this time? What is significant about placing this poem first in the volume?
Analyze the organization of poems in the volume, noting the variety of subjects and forms. Is there a narrative in the organization?
How does it begin and end? What themes emerge over the whole?
Perhaps the most written about poem in this collection is “The Mouse’s Petition.” Corsica and A Summer Evening’s Meditation, however, have generated considerable scholarship,
including the Hitt’s “Ecocriticism and the Long Eighteenth Century” that I highly recommend. What is at stake in The Mouse’s Petition?
For those of you who know Robert Burns’ “To A Mouse,” how does Burns’ respond to Aikin’s? How does satire complicate Aikin’s poem? What or who is being satirized here?
Staves rightly emphasizes the provincial setting of Aikin’s poetry. What do you know about Lancashire? How does Lancashire figure in the poems in the collection?
Map the poems and compare to Rowe, for example. Are there differences in the representation of nature at this point in the history of poetry?
Note: Chapter 7 of Staves' history is the final chapter, and though our particular discussion for this class belongs in the previous chapter, I want you to take the time
this week to read the last chapter because next week we will have three dramas to read.
In class assignment – investigate the Burney Newspaper database and how it functions. In class we will take one of a series of current topics
and investigate the news from the years immediately before Barbauld’s poems. [Warrington Academy, Joseph Priestley, Corsica, vivisection,
coal mining, Duke of Bridgewater’s canal, spring 1771]
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