Wreathes of Barbauld’s Flowers

Upon reading Anna Latetia Barbauld’s To a Lady, with some painted flowers, it is implicit that she is discussing her role as a female author and the work she produces. Barbauld describes her bringing of “painted flowers” connoting a sense of artificiality, something that she has crafted. She brings them in hopes of “an earlier spring” or as implied, a new beginning. The flowers represent multiple things to Barbauld: literally flowers but symbolically women, poetry, her opinions, etc. Viewing them as her works as a female author, she hopes that they will eventually bloom into a new beginning somehow through her readership. She connects them to her female readership by stating that they are, “DELICATE LIKE YOU”—yet she also may be alluding to the delicate status that she holds as a well-known female author that she refuses to threaten apparently. She moves on to a commentary of the current status of women concluding that like other women, like flowers, like her poetry, like herself as a female author her “BEST…SWEETEST empire is—TO PLEASE”—and that is all that can be done in the status quo.

Herein lies Wollstonecraft’s criticism: she indeed sees the message that the clever Barbauld conveys but refuses to explicitly acknowledge. Wollstonecraft beckons that she join her cause for fear that Barbauld will remain a woman of the time: “the fear of departing from a supposed sexual character, has made even women of superior sense adopt the same sentiments.” Wollstonecraft recognizes Barbauld as an intellectual equal but sees that she is submissive as well. Looking towards Eighteen Hundred and Eleven, A Poem, it seems that the elder Barbauld becomes more controversial in her praise for revolution in the final lines of the work. She sees new hope in revolution, as present in South America. Her hope for revolution shares a similarity with Wollstonecraft who sees it as a time for “a revolution in female manners.” This may be a stretch but I feel like Barbauld views revolution as a renewing source to the wilting flower of empire and of women, a chance for an “earlier spring” as before.  Do you agree? What do you think Wollstonecraft would have said in response to Barbauld’s Eighteen Hundred and Eleven? Does Wollstonecraft actually understand what Barbauld is saying on these terms that I argue?

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~ by frightenedinmate2 on September 27, 2012.

One Response to “Wreathes of Barbauld’s Flowers”

  1. Very good analysis, especially in the second paragraph in regards to Wollstonecraft’s criticism and the growth of Barbauld over time. My only stipulation is that in the first paragraph, you said things were “implicit” and “implied” without giving evidence beyond your own interpretation on why these are legitimate understandings of Barbauld’s writing. If you were to tie in more contextual evidence, this post would become much stronger still.

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