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Extra info for British Women’s Writing in the Long Eighteenth Century: Authorship, Politics and History

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Anything which sent her scurrying through her volumes of poetry was a joy to her. Her argument with Dr Johnson was, among other things, that he was not a close reader and that his judgements were therefore unjust. He was prejudiced and envious in her view, but what she called his ‘arrogant idleness’ was even worse: ‘He had not patience to examine and compare; yet, on all subjects, had the temerity to decide, without scruple, against the opinions of persons of great ability, who had examined and compared.

14. Other writers whose work might be profitably read alongside that of Scott include Jane Barker, Charlotte Smith and Clara Reeve. As Kathryn King has explored, both Barker’s Patch-Work Screen for the Ladies (1723) and Charlotte Smith’s Old Manor House (1794) suggestively link needlework and authorial Labour, Gender and Authorship in the Novels of Sarah Scott 31 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. labour to ‘reduce the distance between texts and textiles, audience and author, authorial and female identity’.

Cultural activity carried a responsibility. The forming of taste, arbitrating between this manifestation or that (this poem, that play) the shaping of the imaginary and its expression, was a job of work. It was forming a national literature. It was forming national types, constructing selves around particular values, hence the importance of the vernacular tradition. The circle of amateur enthusiasts with whom she corresponded and visited were doing more than merely pleasing themselves when they debated the relative merits of Pope and Dryden, or enthused over William Cowper (Seward later changed her mind about Cowper); they were developing and performing the relatively new skills of literary scholarship.

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