"Profess as much as I": Dignity as authority in the poetry of Sarah Fyge Egerton

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Seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century women's poetry is often critically assessed for its engagement with public life. While this approach recovers early women poets' contributions to their world at large, it has turned attention away from innovations in poetry derived from a writer's personal experience. In contrast to other women authors of her time, Sarah Fyge Egerton constructs her authority as a poet not from associations with political groups, classical traditions, or religious values but from the dignity of ordinary life. Writing about herself in her Poems on Several Occasions (1703), Egerton takes command of her private and public experiences by subsuming them within the personal, a category that develops as she claims ownership over both spheres of her life. Asserting that her life is worth as much respect as that given to property, she builds literary authority by dignifying in poetry the very experiences that commonly led women to be censured or condemned by their male and female contemporaries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-66
Number of pages22
JournalEighteenth Century
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2010


  • Authority
  • Chudleigh, Mary
  • Collins, An
  • Dignity
  • Egerton, Sarah Fyge
  • Eliza's Babes
  • Finch, Anne
  • Locke, John
  • Manley, Mary Delarivier
  • Queen Anne
  • Retirement
  • Rowe, Elizabeth Singer
  • Self-ownership
  • Sympathy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (all)


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