‘Ann Yearsley and the London newspapers in 1787’

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In the summer of 1787 Ann Yearsley was preparing to publish her second volume of verse, Poems on Various Subjects. It was to be her first new publication since the very public – and extremely bitter – breakdown of her patronage relationship with Hannah More. In this new volume Yearsley would include her defence against the charges of ingratitude and poor behaviour levelled at her, ‘Mrs. Yearsley’s Narrative’, as well as a copy of the deed of trust – the document over which Yearsley and More had quarrelled in 1785 with such unfortunate consequences. Poems on Various Subjects would prove to be a modest success, at least as far as the length of the subscribers’ list is concerned. The volume did much to recover Yearsley’s reputation as a poet of merit; the following year she published a poem condemning the slave trade, using her position as a famous local poet to criticise the practices of her fellow Bristolians and, in 1789, Yearsley ventured on the stages of Bristol and Bath with her first play, Earl Goodwin. And so runs (with only a little glossing) the known literary history of Yearsley’s career between 1787 and 1789. But, as I will demonstrate in this essay, this is only a partial history: from June to September 1787, at the same time Poems on Various Subjects was being prepared for the press and in the months immediately following its publication, Ann Yearsley had begun to publish poetry in the London periodicals and newspapers. These poems have not been subjected to any critical discussion, and were republished for the first time since the 1780s in The Collected Works of Ann Yearsley in early 2014. This essay will therefore offer the first sustained analysis of these poems since their original publication.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-124
JournalTulsa Studies in Women's Literature
Issue number1
Early online date1 Jan 2015
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Jan 2015

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