“But Genius is the special Gift of God!”: The Reclamation of “Natural Genius” in the Late Eighteenth-Century Verses of Ann Yearsley and James Woodhouse

Steve Van-Hagen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

7 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

This chapter explores and, to some degree, reconceptualises the widespread modern-day critical view that the eighteenth-century construction of the trope of “natural genius” tended to imprison the eighteenth-century laboring-class poets within limiting and undesirable cultural identities. The chapter examines works by two of the most controversial and widely discussed laboring-class poets of the late century – including “To Mr ****, an Unlettered Poet, on Genius Unimproved” and “Addressed to Ignorance, Occasioned by a Gentleman’s desiring the Author never to assume a Knowledge of the Ancients” by Ann Yearsley, and the mammoth autobiographical epic The Life and Lucubrations of Crispinus Scriblerus by James Woodhouse. It then argues that by the century’s end laboring-class poets did not hesitate to manipulate and “answer back” to the conventions of “natural genius” for their own political, religious, aesthetic and ethical ends. The chapter contends that each poet’s reclamation of “natural genius” as a positive descriptor and attribute helps us to understand their cultural, social and ideological positions at the time they wrote these works, as well as reconfiguring our ideas about how laboring-class poets interacted with and reacted to the conventions of their promotion to the reading public.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA History of British Working-Class Literature
EditorsJohn Goodridge, Bridget Keegan
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Chapter4
Pages55-69
Number of pages15
ISBN (Print)978-1-107-19040-5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2017

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of '“But Genius is the special Gift of God!”: The Reclamation of “Natural Genius” in the Late Eighteenth-Century Verses of Ann Yearsley and James Woodhouse'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this

    Van-Hagen, S. (2017). “But Genius is the special Gift of God!”: The Reclamation of “Natural Genius” in the Late Eighteenth-Century Verses of Ann Yearsley and James Woodhouse. In J. Goodridge, & B. Keegan (Eds.), A History of British Working-Class Literature (pp. 55-69). Cambridge : Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108105392.006