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INTRODUCTION

Ann Yearsley and Hannah More have often been divisive figures in eighteenth century literary history, when they have featured in it at all. Of the two, Hannah Mores name has better endured what Stuart Curran termed the caprices of historians with history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries which saw the contributions of many women erased from the record.1 Mores endurance was in part because of her youthful associations with some of the most famous figures of the eighteenth century, including David Garrick, Samuel Johnson and Elizabeth Montagu, and in part because of the sheer weight of influence built up during a literary career which spanned nearly half a century. But that longevity has also proved problematic; the excitement of the heady early years in London when More first emerged as a dramatic writer has sometimes been obscured by her later reputation as a strident opponent of the French Revolution who used her knowledge of the labouring rural poor to help put an end to lowerclass hopes for a more egalitarian society. In addition, her moral treatises and evangelical texts set high standards for her readers. The response of one, the heir presumptive Princess Charlotte and the subject of Mores 1805 educational text Hints towards Forming the Character of a Young Princess, was that she was not quite good enough for that.2 Mores advice was not easy to follow. But Mores reputation has also suffered in the last thirty years with the rise of feminist and Marxist criticism. In terms of feminist criticism at least this is counter-intuitive, given that Mores work, like that of many other women writers of the period, had slipped, at least partly, from view since the eighteenth century. Indeed, the sudden increase in interest in women writers that was one of the early hallmarks of feminist scholarship in the 1980s did much to bring Mores works, along with those of many others, back into view. But in so doing it also shed light on Mores ambivalent and problematic attitudes towards her own sex, most clearly articulated in her 1799 Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education. In that text More positioned herself in opposition to Mary Wollstonecrafts A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) understandable, given Mores political conservatism and Wollstonecrafts pro-Revolutionary stance. But, as Anne Stott observes,

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Ann Yearsley and Hannah More, Patronage and Poetry For reasons of her own, she chose to set herself up as an antifeminist in opposition not merely to Mary Wollstonecraft but to the much milder feminisms of bluestocking friends such as Frances Boscawen and Charlotte Walsingham. As a result she was praised by the antifeminists of her day and has been denounced ever since.3

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Studies such as Elizabeth Kowaleski-Wallaces Their Fathers Daughters: Hannah More, Maria Edgeworth, and Patriarchal Complicity (1991) were part of the chorus of disapproval: Kowaleski-Wallace, for example, argued that More subscribed to a system of religious belief that served to divide woman from woman, sister from sister.4 However, there were attempts to better understand Mores attitudes within their social and historical context, including work by Kathryn Sutherland and Harriet Guest which sought to identify the common ground between writers like More and Wollstonecraft. These similarities were recognized in Mores own time, but were subsequently elided.5 But it is at the hands of Marxist critics that More has perhaps suffered the most. During the last thirty years scholarship on More has been published with titles including Strategies of Containment, In Praise of Poverty and Study to be quiet: Hannah More and the Invention of Conservative Culture in Britain, all of which articulate an anxiety about Mores role and place in eighteenth-century literary culture in terms of her attitudes towards class.6 Or, as Anne Mellor has rather more dramatically put it,
The leading historians of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century England have emerged from a theoretical tradition grounded on Marxist or left-wing socialist ideologies: they hate Hannah More because in their eyes she did far too much to stop a liberating French-style political revolution from occurring in England.7

Despite Mores many years as a dedicated educator of the rural poor in and around the Mendips in Somerset, she stands accused of participating in an oppressive project of social control.8 For some feminist and Marxist scholars, the exemplification and embodiment of Mores participation in this project of social control was her patronage of the labouring-class poet Ann Yearsley, the milkwoman whose literary abilities were first brought to public attention through Mores efforts. Before she first met More, Yearsley and her family had been on the brink of starvation; Mores patronage helped secure them in much more prosperous circumstances. This, however, has received short shrift from critics sceptical of Mores motives towards the labouring classes. Mona Scheuermann, for example, argues that Mores help in setting up Yearsley as a poet is no different from any other charity doled out to the unfortunate.9 For Scheuermann, Mores behaviour towards Yearsley is fundamentally condescending and impelled by a misguided sense of philanthropy. As further evidence in support of this sort of argument, such critics have cited the collapse of Mores patronage of Yearsley. Although their relationship was ini-

Introduction

tially successful, Yearsley and More fell out shortly after Yearsleys first volume of poetry was published in June 1785. They disagreed over money; specifically, Mores attempts to control the earnings of Yearsleys debut volume Poems on Several Occasions which amounted to 500. The ensuing dispute was public and unpleasant such was the strength of feeling that Yearsley published a public rebuttal of the charges of ingratitude levelled against her, and also outlined her grounds for disagreeing with More over the handling of the 500. For Marxist critics like Moira Ferguson, who was at the forefront of the 1980s recovery of Yearsleys story, Yearsley is therefore a champion for the rights of British peasants, a woman who shared compassion for abused men and women around the world,10 and a courageous writer who resisted Mores hegemonic practices11 because she publicly challenged her patrons authority and wrested control of her finances from a patron terrified at the thought of an upwardly mobile labouring class. But rather than making a case for Yearsleys importance, such arguments have reduced her significance in terms of our understanding of late eighteenth-century literary history, as Tim Burke observed in his 2003 collection of Yearsleys poetry:
It is tempting for the modern reader to romanticise the drama of Yearsleys escape from death and her bitter contest with her deliciously pompous rescuer. Yearsley can become for us the proletarian rebel lashing out against middle-class conservatism, or an icon of the womens voices lost from literary history But her poetic achievements have continued to be muted, to some degree, by the attention given to her attractive biographical drama of discovery and dispute.12

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The cost of championing Yearsley so stridently and so one-sidedly against More has been to diminish the significance of Yearsleys literary achievements Burkes argument indicates that she has not yet secured a place in the current recovery of womens writing because of the quality of her work, but because she has been an attractive emblem of a particular socio-political agenda. Such attitudes towards Yearsley have also led to the gross oversimplification of Mores motivations, diminishing the role she plays in Yearsleys story to that of pantomime villain. Biased approaches to Yearsleys work have also had the effect of shortening our critical focus on her literary career to the eighteen months during which she was Mores protge: it is here that the majority of scholarship on Yearsley is centred. In the quarter century since the recovery of her writing, few articles have been published on Yearsleys 1789 play, Earl Goodwin, or her novel, The Royal Captives.13 Whilst Donna Landry in 1990 offered important readings of Yearsleys last volume of poetry, The Rural Lyre, Yearsleys later poetry has on the whole received relatively little attention.14 There are some exceptions, including Anne Milnes Lactilla Tends her Favrite Cow which spends a significant amount of time on the poetry of The Rural Lyre as well as the earlier volumes

Ann Yearsley and Hannah More, Patronage and Poetry

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Poems on Several Occasions (1785) and Poems on Various Subjects (1787); William Christmass The Labring Muses; and a 2008 article by Lynda Pratt which examines Yearsleys epic fragment Brutus, the first poem in The Rural Lyre. Generally speaking, however, Yearsleys later work (1789 to 1796) has received significantly less attention than her earlier writing.15 Furthermore, in the quarter century in which interest in Yearsley has been revived, relatively little archival research has been done. An article by Moira Ferguson which appeared in 1993 examined a small collection of poems handwritten by Yearsley and held in Bristol Central Library. These Additions, as Yearsley called them, included alternative endings to poems published in her first volume, unpublished poems about Hannah More and some work which would be published in later volumes.16 The accuracy of Fergusons work was later challenged by Mary Waldron and Frank Felsenstein, both of whom questioned her conclusions.17 Mary Waldrons 1996 biography of Yearsley utilized many manuscript sources held by the Bristol Record Office, particularly those relating to Yearsleys residence in Clifton, and in 2002 Frank Felsenstein published the first known letters to and from Yearsley, dating from 1788 to 1790.18 Otherwise, scholars seem not to have considered the search for manuscript sources relating to Yearsley to be of particular importance, and attention has remained centred on the whole upon the same few texts, and the same few months, which have been of interest since the 1980s. This study, then, seeks to heed Burkes warning by attempting to offer an even-handed assessment of the dispute and its aftermath, instead of romanticizing the story of Yearsleys early career. It will examine Yearsleys career as a whole, presenting new evidence derived from previously unknown manuscript sources. Some of these manuscripts cast new light on the falling-out with More, making possible, therefore, a more detailed examination of this moment within a much richer archival context, as well as within the broader context of the poetry and prose works written by Yearsley both before and after the events of June 1785. Whilst there is a narrowness to earlier scholarship on Yearsley, there are also gaps in our understanding of Mores career, though with the extensive nature of her literary connections and continuing public profile they are of a lesser magnitude than those relating to Yearsleys career. As we have seen, her didactic writings have been examined by the likes of Guest, Mellor, Pedersen and Gilmartin. Similarly, Mores involvement with the Bluestocking circle has been explored by Sylvia Harcstark Myers, Patrica Demers, Emma Major and Elizabeth Eger.19 Ellen Donkins study Getting into the Act offers an important exploration of Mores early career as a dramatist, and Anne Stotts excellent recent biography sheds new light on Mores entire career.20 But whilst many of these and other studies make reference to Mores patronage of Yearsley, fewer take serious pains to closely examine Mores attitudes towards patronage,21 and none have looked

Introduction

back to Mores own experiences as a protge of David Garrick as a means of understanding the ways in which she approached her relationship with Yearsley. Furthermore, whilst some critics, including Alan Richardson and Brycchan Carey, have commented on the relationship between the abolition poetry published by both More and Yearsley in 1788, other clear parallels between the careers of the two women have not been explored: nor has the legacy of their patronage relationship in their later work been considered.22 Therefore, this book seeks to significantly extend our critical focus; not just after the eighteen months of Mores patronage of Yearsley, but before that time to Mores three years as David Garricks protge. And it seeks to extend that focus not only in temporal terms, but also in terms of networks: of our understanding of the sorts of work these women were doing, and the sorts of people they were doing it with. At the heart of this book are questions about partnerships and friendships, and their formation, development and decay. I contend that these relationships are part of larger social patterns including patronage, revolution, religious nonconformity and changes in literary taste. Of course, the relationship with which this study is most concerned is the one that existed between Hannah More and Ann Yearsley. In contrast to previous studies, however, I show that it was a partnership in which both women made a significant and genuine emotional investment. This has been possible through the use of archival materials. In my research for this study I have discovered new poems and letters, including the only letter sent between Yearsley and More known to have survived. This letter, sent at the height of the dispute between the two women, offers fascinating insights into the dynamics of their relationship. This, coupled with an analysis of Mores patronage by David Garrick, has enabled new and important interpretations to be made of both womens actions as their partnership failed. However, the relationship between More and Yearsley, as I argue throughout this book, extends beyond the time of their initial patronage relationship to have important effects on the decisions taken by both women in their later lives. From Mores bitter envy of Yearsleys dramatic success as expressed in letters to Horace Walpole, to Yearsleys decision to become involved in the abolition movement, both women were intensely interested in what the other was doing, and that interest helped shape the ways in which their careers developed. I also argue that Yearsleys experiences as Mores protge were fundamental to her decision to establish a hybrid career as patronized yet independent writer, propelling Yearsley to manipulate to her advantage the available patronage mechanisms. And I suggest that in the 1790s the political positions adopted by More and Yearsley are based, at least in part, on their experiences as collaborators in 17845. But whilst this relationship is at the heart of this study, one of the central claims of my book is that neither Mores nor Yearsleys literary careers can be

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Ann Yearsley and Hannah More, Patronage and Poetry

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understood solely in terms of that relationship. Mores involvement with the Bluestockings, the evangelicals, the Clapham Sect and the Sunday school movement have been well documented, but also of importance are Mores friendships with David and Eva Garrick and Elizabeth Montagu: all helped shape her relationship with Yearsley. In contrast, Yearsleys other relationships are, on the whole, not well documented, the only exception being her friendships with Eliza Dawson and Wilmer Gossip as revealed in the Thorp Arch correspondence published by Frank Felsenstein. Therefore, one of the functions of this study is to (re) place Yearsley, through the use of newly discovered archival evidence, in previously unknown networks; most importantly, as I argue later, the radical literary circle established by Joseph Cottle in Bristol from the mid-1790s onwards. Letters between Yearsley and Cottle, and Yearsley and Ralph Griffiths explored here indicate that she was a member of one of the most influential literary groupings of the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries, one that included Robert Southey, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth. In placing such a strong emphasis on the importance of personal relationships I am taking as my model work done over the last twenty years or so by critics including Sylvia Harckstark Myers, Gurion Taussig, David Fairer and Felicity James, all of whom have argued that acknowledging the importance of friendship circles and networks of acquaintance in this period is central to an understanding of literary creativity. In her groundbreaking study of the Bluestocking circle, Myers indicates that personal relationships, including mentors, family ties, marriage or its absence, and friendship directly shaped womens professional careers.23 Writing about the Romantic-era circles with which Yearsley was involved Fairer considers the fraught topic of connectedness in its many forms (spatial and temporal) which underpinned so much of what was written and published in the 1790s,24 whilst James talks of the ideal of friendship and sympathetic feeling which lies at the very centre of creative and social identity.25 These ideas of connectedness and the centrality of friendship and sympathetic feeling closely inform the ways in which literary networks are understood in this study. However, whilst Myers, Fairer and James have done much to broaden our understanding of the importance of collaboration and friendship in literary creativity, they have tended to focus on individual networks: Myers on the Bluestockings; and Fairer and James primarily on the Coleridge circle. But, as I demonstrate in what follows, writers involvement with collaborative networks was non-exclusive: they frequently belonged simultaneously to multiple groups. At this point it would be appropriate to define how I am using the term literary network. In common with Myers, Fairer and James I use literary network broadly to describe a group who work together to produce, or facilitate the production of, literary works. In this study, therefore, literary network encompasses a range of relationships and connections that are formed through family bonds,

Introduction

friendship or professional interests, or through shared cultural, religious or political beliefs. Under this definition patronage is also considered a form of literary network. Although in my first two chapters I consider two seemingly classic patronage pairings first David Garricks patronage of More, then Mores of Ann Yearsley my discussion demonstrates that the success of both partnerships entails a wider literary network of supporters, friends and acquaintances. At the heart of this study, then, is an interest in the fraught connectedness, to borrow David Fairers phrase, of literary groups and literary production; in particular, what is made possible through various kinds of literary connections and networks, and what is impeded, and how this can better inform, or challenge, our understanding of the careers of Hannah More, Ann Yearsley and their circles. Through my focus in chapter 1 on the relationship between Hannah More and David Garrick, I explore the permeable boundaries between patronage and friendship which both enhanced Mores experience as a protge, and limited her success as a dramatist. But I also locate More, and Garrick, within a much wider literary network centred on Londons salon culture, and I argue that Garricks granting of access to this culture was one of his most important acts as Mores patron. I also trace here the patronal legacies inherited by More from Garrick and suggest that these formative experiences were central to Mores own conduct as a patron to Ann Yearsley. This inheritance is considered in detail in chapters 2 and 3. A literary phenomenon, Yearsleys initial success, I argue, was due not only to Mores careful oversight, but Mores access to a London circle of influential and well-to-do friends. But in contrast to the earlier partnership between More and Garrick, Yearsleys ability to interact with a literary network beyond her patron was heavily mediated. Instead, as I suggest in chapter 2 through close readings of several of Yearsleys poems, her engagement with these wider circles had to be conducted imaginatively through her work. Here I also present new archival evidence which offers fresh ways of viewing the eventual breakdown of relations between More and Yearsley, events which are suggestive of an inherent tension between different models of patronage: an exclusive, intimate version favoured by More, and a less rigid, looser version which allows for the development of friendship which Yearsley seems to have preferred. Chapter 3 offers a more detailed exploration of Yearsleys preferred patronage model, a model which I suggest she was able to bring into being through careful and professional management of her public image. In this chapter I consider the ways in which Yearsley, following the breach with More, adapted existing patronage models to create a hybrid form that blended elements of patronage with aspects of a literary network. Here, too, manuscript materials are brought in to demonstrate the ways in which Yearsley from 1786 onwards sought carefully to manage her professional identity so as to create and sustain a network of friends and patrons across the country.

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Ann Yearsley and Hannah More, Patronage and Poetry

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In chapters 4, 5 and 6 my discussion broadens to consider how both women came to produce work from within a range of overlapping literary networks based variously on religious, socio-political, geographical and personal affinities; from the high-ranking, influential and conservative-minded groupings with whom More usually associated, to the Bristol-based and radical networks Yearsley became involved with. As I argue here, though, participation in these networks was not neutral, and had complex effects both on the writers involved and the works they produced. Chapter 4 considers this issue in the context of the abolition debate of 1788, in which both More and Yearsley made use of their respective literary networks to present themselves as speakers for even wider circles: Yearsley for the people of Bristol, and More for all educated and civilized people. In chapter 5 I argue that the creative success of literary networks depended not only on the abilities of group members, but was subject to widely held social and political attitudes, especially during the turbulent Revolutionary decade. Here I discuss the ways in which these attitudes facilitated, or impeded, the production and distribution of Mores and Yearsleys works, and the effects this had on the progress and direction of both womens literary careers. Chapters 6 and 7 consider how these attitudes brought Bristols radical network to the point of collapse, whilst elevating Mores conservative networks to positions of national fame and influence. It is in the final chapter that I consider the longerlasting effects of these cultural contexts on the literary reputations of both More and Yearsley, before concluding with an exploration of the consequences this has had on our own critical inheritance. This book, then, offers several new interpretations of the literary relationships in which both Yearsley and More were involved. Most importantly, though, it opens up new areas for critical exploration beyond the well-mined few months of More and Yearsleys literary collaboration. The new and challenging contexts in which the two women are placed here demonstrate the need for a reassessment of our understanding of patronage, friendship and of eighteenth-century and early Romantic literary cultures. This study offers one such reassessment.