ISSN 1744-9618
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Female 'authorism', according to Anna Seward, requires an 'obtrusive courage'. The pathway to authorship for eighteenth-century women was spread with many obstacles and Seward had to negotiate the gendered codes of conduct on her way to becoming one of the most influential and commercially successful authors of the period. Her obtrusive courage proved to be all important in overcoming the restrictions facing her.
My essay sets out the difficulties that writing women had to confront and examines the individual way that Seward challenged these. Although the literacy rate was rising and women's public role was beginning to be reconfigured with increasing latitude in many areas, involvement in print culture was limited. Most women were seriously hindered by the lack of education, yet Seward insisted that this held no major disadvantage to her writing career or to her self-worth. She embarked on a rigorous programme of self-education. At the age of sixteen she first experienced the constraints imposed on literary women, when writing poetry was forbidden by her parents. Her position as an author appeared untenable yet she turned her back on the marriage market, still claiming an entitlement to write and resolving the conflict between domestic duty and authorship with a necessarily compromising balance. When she finally achieved authorship status, the politics of the publishing industry had to be confronted. My essay seeks to address the ways in which Anna Seward's fight for the justification of her own literary worth brought about the inception of her controversial biography of Erasmus Darwin and in resisting conventional pressures and challenging the hypocrisy of the print industry, she was able to contribute to a female literary tradition.
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