“Far Other Times Are These”: The Bluestockings in the Time of Ossian

JoEllen M. DeLucia, John Jay College, City University of New York
Vol. 27, No. 1 (Spring 2008), 39-62

This article discusses the Bluestockings’s re-appropriation of the Scottish poems of Ossian in the mid-1700s. Bluestockings used the poems of Ossian to reveal new feminine histories that challenged the hegemonic masculine narratives of English history. Popular history connected gender and commerce, stressing that human progress developed economically from savagery to civilization by moving from only meeting the bare necessities for survival to cultivating higher social interests once such needs were met. This highest level of civilization was marked by an influx of sentiment, a traditionally feminine virtue, and thus the spread of the British commercial empire was linked to the liberation of women in primitive territories. However, the poems of Ossian revealed an alternate history where economically undeveloped Celts were still able to convey high levels of refined feelings. Thus, the treatment of women in a society, not its economic progress, was constructed as the hallmark of its level of civilization. The article then provides a reading of Catherine Talbot’s imitations of the Ossian poems that critiqued masculine imperial readings of British history and Britain’s territorial expansion during the Seven Years War.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]