Dennis Low's re-evaluation of the Lake Poets as mentors begins with the controversial premise that Robert Southey was one of the nineteenth-century's greatest champions of women's writing. Together with Wordsworth and Coleridge, Low argues, Southey tried to end what he perceived to be the cultural decline of literature by nurturing the creative talents of many exceptional women writers.
Drawing on 3,000 unpublished manuscripts in England, Scotland and the United States, Low examines the lives and works of four of the Lake Poets' literary protégées: Caroline Bowles, Maria Gowen Brooks, Sara Coleridge and Maria Jane Jewsbury. Though diverse in terms of their literary production, these women were united in their defiant efforts to write against an increasingly stagnant cultural milieu and their negotiation, wholeheartedly encouraged by their mentors, of contemporary publishing mores. This scrupulously researched book is a valuable contribution to the study of little-known women writers and to our understanding of the literary and publishing environment of Britain in the 1820s and 1830s.
Reviews: 'Dennis Low's admirably lucid and intelligent book gives us a thoughtful, frequently illuminating study of what often has been viewed as a gap in the production of major English literature during the twenty or so years after the deaths of Keats, Shelley and Byron. Focusing on four women—Caroline Bowles, Maria Gowen Brooks, Sara Coleridge and Maria Jane Jewsbury—and the ways in which they were encouraged and advised by, variously, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Southey, this interesting work adds valuably to the study of neglected but significant women poets and their literary relationships. Low deserves an appreciative audience.'
Paul Betz, Professor of English, Georgetown University
'...(a) well-researched case-history study of literary mentorship... a worthy addition to Ashgate's Nineteenth Century series, ... fulfils some of its admirable aims, to cut across the parameters of "Romantic" and "Victorian", and to draw attention to non-canonical writers.' Times Literary Supplement
‘…a mixture of literary biography and valuable critical commentary ... interesting and enjoyable…’ Review of English Studies
‘…a fine contribution to the field of Romantic studies. Low avoids overly complex academic jargon to produce informative, smoothly flowing text that is easy to read …The book is well researched and argued; it draws on a variety of manuscript sources and offers original critiques on a large number of literary texts. …It will be especially useful for readers interested in women's writing and in the influence of the Lake Poets on other writers.’ BARS Bulletin and Review
‘In The Literary Protégées of the Lake Poets, Dennis Low brings Caroline Bowles, Maria Gowen Brooks, Sara Coleridge, and Maria Jane Jewsbury out of the footnotes and into life ... The reader feels like a time-traveller, opening the doors (wooden and creaking) to the homes where these four writers lived ... Low cleverly shows men and women in conversation about literature, publication, and life. From vast quantities of unpublished correspondence, he has retrieved valuable statements that shed light on attitudes to women writers, on the business side of publishing, and on the personal lives of those involved ... With his eye for the arresting detail, Dennis Low contributes to literary history through his account of the work of these four women writing in the early 19th century.’ Wordsworth Circle