The Poetics of Maria Smith Abdy: Wielding the Sword and the Shield

Virginia Hromulak, Nassau Community College
Vol. 38, No. 2 (Fall 2019), 313-335

This article focuses on the sentimental poems of Maria Smith Abdy, a popular nineteenth-century British poetess, whose work highly influenced female readers in Victorian Britain and America but who vanished from literary history due to her association with literary annuals and periodicals, both considered minor literary venues by the academy. In its attempt to reintroduce and substantiate the relevance of this lesser-known  poet to the canon and to feminist studies, this article examines thematic and rhetorical tensions informing Abdy’s poetry, tensions born of and fueled by the interrelationship between the poetess and the editorial constraints of the annuals. It argues that Abdy, by assuming theologically conservative positions through which to register political criticism, is able to gain entrée into public debates, such as those on slavery and the abuse of the working class. This strategy allowed her to transcend accepted norms of propriety for women of the time while providing a way to draw back when her voice pushed the limit of acceptability, thus serving as a critique of patriarchy.

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]