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New letters, new poems : Ann Yearsley in context

Andrews, Kerri (2010) New letters, new poems : Ann Yearsley in context. Women's Writing, 17 (1). pp. 185-195. ISSN 0969-9082

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For a long time Ann Yearsley was remembered only as an unfortunate footnote in Hannah More's career as a writer and philanthropist. Having enjoyed considerable fame during her 11 years as an active writer (subscribers to her poetry included the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, Charlotte Smith, prime ministers and politicians, and high-ranking clergy), Yearsley, and her works, fell into obscurity within only a few years of her death. It would be nearly 200 years before scholars began to reappraise Yearsley's career, and to investigate the reasons for the absence of what was clearly an important voice during the last years of the eighteenth century. In this essay, the author considers the advances in understanding of Yearsley's life and works made during the past 20 years, in particular Mary Waldron's contribution as Yearsley's (only) biographer, and the importance of her emphasis on archive research to Yearsley scholarship, and the author's own research in preparing the first collected edition of Yearsley's complete works. Through a discussion of a selection of Yearsley's unpublished poetry, the author considers the kinds of contexts in which it is now possible to locate Yearsley and her work, and the impact on our understanding of regional culture and labouring-class poetry at the end of the eighteenth century.