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By Elizabeth Eger (auth.)

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Extra resources for Bluestockings: Women of Reason from Enlightenment to Romanticism

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While Samuel’s painting can be interpreted on a number of levels, it remains primarily a testament to the achievement of women in the eighteenth century as cultural standard-bearers of considerable influence. The Nine Living Muses of Great Britain should be seen in the context of contemporary aesthetic debate, providing an interesting example of eighteenth-century efforts to advocate the importance of female involvement in social and cultural progress. The only evidence we have of Samuel’s artistic aims and achievements is that provided in a lecture he gave in 1786 to the Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce.

While Elizabeth Montagu and Elizabeth Griffith promoted Shakespeare as England’s national poet, Charlotte Lennox was more critical. However, all three critics can be said to share a preoccupation with the moral teachings of his plays. They laid an important foundation for women writers in the nineteenth century who promoted the teaching of Shakespeare in schools, and used his heroines in their arguments for equality of the sexes. The fourth chapter, ‘The Bluestocking Legacy in the Romantic Era’, explores the ways in which women used poetry as a form in which to express their political ideas, also suggesting the importance of the original bluestocking example for a more international and radical group of writers working at the end of the century.

They might be argued to represent the end of an era in radically different tones. A comparative reading of these poems will demonstrate the ways in which they can be read as experimental reflections on (or projections of) the female community represented in Samuel’s painting. 1 Living Muses: the Female Icon If any one should start a query, why the ancients, who reasoned so deeply, should, in their personifications of the sovereign wisdom, have chosen Minerva a female; why the Muses, who preside over the several subordinate modes of intelligence, &c.

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