Ashley Cross1
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  • 1 Manhattan College, Riverdale, New York
Writing Pain: Sensibility and Suffering in the Late Letters of Anna Seward and Mary Robinson
in Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
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‘Writing Pain’ argues that Anna Seward‘s Letters (1811) and Mary Robinson‘s letters (1800) create alternative models of sensibility from the suffering poet of Charlotte Smith‘s Elegiac Sonnets. Immensely popular, Smith‘s sonnets made feminine suffering a source of poetic agency by aestheticizing and privatizing it. However, despite their sincerity, her sonnets effaced the physical, nervous body of sensibility on which Seward‘s and Robinsons early poetic reputations had depended and for which they had been mocked. The popularity of Smith‘s model made it an important model for women poets, but, by the end of the eighteenth century, sensibility was also associated with sickness and artifice. For Seward and Robinson, who wanted to build their literary reputations but were living with disabled bodies, Smiths example needed to be reimagined to account for the reciprocity of body and mind as they struggled to write through pain.

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