Women Poets

Letitia Elizabeth Landon, best known by her literary sobriquet as L.E.L., was one of the most well known international literary figures of the early nineteenth century and a fixture in the English and French literary scene. Her works were translated into French, German, and Dutch. In London, she held her own salons and was welcomed into many others. Among her coterie were the influential Lady Caroline Lamb, Rosina Wheeler (later Lady Lytton), Edward Bulwer (later Lytton), Anna Marie Hall, Frances Trollope, and authors less well known in the twenty-first century, such as Felicia Dorothia Hemens, and Mary Jane Jewsberry. Upon her unexpected death in 1838, innumerable elegies were penned, including those by authors well known to both contemporary and current readers: Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Christina Rossetti.

England and Spain; or, Valour and Patriotism
Felicia Dorothea Hemans (1793-1835)
London: Printed by J. M’Creery, for T. Cadell and W. Davies, 1808

Gift of Deborah Wachs Barnes, Sharon Wachs Hirsch, Judith Pieprz, and Joel Wachs, AB’92

Felicia Dorothea Browne (later Hemans) published her first book in 1808, at the age of 15. The theme of the Napoleonic Wars remained important to her, as did exotic locales. Landon, in her essay "On the Character of Mrs. Heman's Writings," notes that "Mistress both of German and Spanish, the latter country appears to have peculiarly captivated her imagination... the present was insufficient, and she went back upon the past; the romantic history of the Moors was like a storehouse, with treasures gorgeous like those of its own Alhambra."

Wachs No. 66

Modern Greece
[Felicia Dorothea Hemans (1793-1835)]
London: John Murray, 1817

Gift of Deborah Wachs Barnes, Sharon Wachs Hirsch, Judith Pieprz, and Joel Wachs, AB’92

Hemans was much admired by writers of her time and an enormously popular poet. Her most famous poem, "Casabianca", which begins, "The boy stood on the burning deck/ Whence all but he had fled;" has been both much recited and parodied.

Wachs No. 263

Phantasmagoria; or, Sketches of Life and Literature
[Maria Jane Jewsbury (1800-1833)]
London: Hurst, Robinson and Co.; and Archibald Constable and Co., 1825

Gift of Deborah Wachs Barnes, Sharon Wachs Hirsch, Judith Pieprz, and Joel Wachs, AB’92

Jewsbury supported her family with her pen, encouraged by A. A. Watts and Wordsworth. She and Landon corresponded frequently and with enthusiasm, their friendship celebrated in the poem "To L.E.L., -- After Meeting Her for the First Time." Following Jewsbury's untimely death, Landon memorialized her friend in prose.

Wachs No. 849

Valperga or, the Life and Adventures of Castruccio, Prince of Lucca
[Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797-1851)]
London: Printed for G. and W. B. Whittaker, 1823

On Loan from Deborah Wachs Barnes, Sharon Wachs Hirsch, Judith Pieprz, and Joel Wachs, AB’92

Landon's only drama written for the stage was Castruccio Castrucani; or, the Triumph of Lucca, a Tragedy, drawing inspiration from both Shelley & Bulwer's novels about this political figure, Duke of Lucca in the 14th century. Castruccio Castrucani was not finished in time to be considered for Covent Garden in 1838, the year Landon left England, and thus never performed.

Wachs No. 591

The Golden Violet, With Its Tales of Romance and Chivalry: and Other Poems
[Letitia Elizabeth Landon (1802-1838)]
London: Printed for Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, 1827

Gift of Deborah Wachs Barnes, Sharon Wachs Hirsch, Judith Pieprz, and Joel Wachs, AB’92

Landon's penultimate book of poetry. By dedicating it to her uncle the Reverend James Landon she publically reveals her surname for the first time.

Wachs No. 296

The Seraphim, and Other Poems
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)
London: Saunders and Otley, 1838

Gift of Deborah Wachs Barnes, Sharon Wachs Hirsch, Judith Pieprz, and Joel Wachs, AB’92

At the time when the division between poetesses and poets was wide, Barrett was determined to be a poet. She is thus in a delicate place when it comes to Landon, balancing between recognizing someone who helped pave the way for a woman writer and a desire to reject the emotional, sensitive, delicate "feminine" pose. From childhood, Barrett positions herself firmly within the masculine tradition of poetry; she writes of George Sand, who chose a similar stance, in a very different manner than she does of Landon.

Wachs No. 546

A Drama of Exile: and Other Poems
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)
New York: Henry G. Langley, 1845

Gift of Deborah Wachs Barnes, Sharon Wachs Hirsch, Judith Pieprz, and Joel Wachs, AB’92

The first American edition, published in London in 1844 as Poems. In "L.E.L.'s Last Question," Barrett uses a line from one of Landon's final poems, "Night at Sea," as a refrain.

Wachs No. 824

Poems and Songs by E. H. B.
[Edward Henry Bickersteth (1825-1906)]
London: William Pickering, 1848

Gift of Deborah Wachs Barnes, Sharon Wachs Hirsch, Judith Pieprz, and Joel Wachs, AB’92

The inscription, "son of the authoress," in this copy raises questions about its attribution to E. H. Bickersteth, who published his first volume of poetry in 1849, one year after Poems & Songs. While Poems and Songs themselves are not written in the same voice as Bickersteth's poetry, many also address aspects of another's life, such as "A Mother to a Sleeping Child," or the "Elegy to L. E. L." It is unlikely that Landon would have been lauded by the austere young son of an even more austere minister. This volume was published by William Pickering. However, this book is not mentioned in any checklist of the Pickering Press. It may be that identification of the author will come from further research into Pickering.

Wachs No. 370

The Prince’s Progress and Other Poems
Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)
London: Macmillan and Co., 1866

Gift of Deborah Wachs Barnes, Sharon Wachs Hirsch, Judith Pieprz, and Joel Wachs, AB’92

Although Rossetti never personally knew Landon, who died in 1838, in recognition of a debt to the style of The Golden Violet, in solidarity with a fellow female poet and in response to Barrett, she also pens an elegy to her influential predecessor. Notably, "L.E.L." the poetic persona is the subject, rather than Landon the woman

Wachs No. 557

The Victoria Regia: a Volume of Original Contributions in Poetry and Prose
Adelaide Anne Procter, editor (1825-1864)
London: Printed and Published by Emily Faithfull and Co., Victoria Press, 1861

On Loan from Deborah Wachs Barnes, Sharon Wachs Hirsch, Judith Pieprz, and Joel Wachs, AB’92

The Victoria Press, which employed women as compositors, was founded and managed by Emily Faithfull who, in recognition of her endeavors and as a direct result of the publication of The Victoria Regia, was appointed by Royal Warrant in June 1862 "Printer and Publisher in Ordinary to Her Majesty." The Victoria Regia is one of the most notable books produced by Faithfull and the Press; writings by Jewsbury, Martineau and Trollope are all included. A subsequent volume to be dedicated to the Princess of Wales would contain contributions from Martineau and Rossetti.

Wachs No. 591