Introduction to the Poetess Archive

This archive constitutes a resource for studying the literary history of popular British and American poetry. Much of it composed during what can be called the "bull market" of poetry's popularity(1) , late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century popular poetry was often written in what came to be designated an "effeminate" style, whether written by men or women. Writings in the poetess tradition were disseminated in myriad collections: miscellanies, beauties, literary annuals, gift books. They achieved a place of prominence in virtually every middle-class household. The Poetess Archive Database now contains a bibliography of over 4,000 entries for works by and about writers working in and against the "poetess tradition," the extraordinarily popular, but much criticized, flowery poetry written in Britain and America between 1750 and 1900.

About the Database

The Poetess Archive Database is a bibliography that you can organize in any way you wish, searching by author, by collection, and by criticism (tabs above), and then limit by using the side-menu of constraints found with each search. But the Poetess Archive Database is more: it is also a full-text resource. At the present time (19 February 2007), not many texts are available. Our one full-text literary annual, the Bijou of 1828, including engravings, transcriptions, and page images, serves as a model for the literary annuals that we will acquire. The scholarly apparatus and editing of texts is also in process. In addition, the Poetess Archive Database provides images of material books: book boards and slip cases, as in the Forget Me Not of 1823, for instance. All literary annuals and collections of poetry in the database display, minimally, their tables of contents. For many of our literary annuals -- and soon, for all annuals and collections -- the tables of contents have been entered into the database as well: shortly, you will be able to search this site by typing in an author and know all the works that he or she published in annuals and collections produced between 1750 and 1900. The database presents poems, such as Anne Yearsley's The Slave Trade or Felicia Hemans's The Sculptured Children. It presents criticism from the era such as John Wilson's Monologue on the Annuals, as well as criticism written by our contemporaries, sometimes even providing small, edited portions, such as Paula Bennett's "Women's Poetry in American Victorian Periodicals 1860-1900," or full texts, as in Rene Anderson's essay about Susannah Hawkins.

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