William Hayley (1745-1820): poet, biographer and libertarian: a reassessment

Foster, P. and Barsham, D. (eds.). (2013) William Hayley (1745-1820): poet, biographer and libertarian: a reassessment. Otter Memorial Papers, 32 . University of Chichester, Chichester, West Sussex. ISBN 9781907852152

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The course of Hayley’s poetry and his other writings (notably, biographies of Cowper and of the painter, George Romney) has run no smoother than his life. Born the grandson of a Dean of Chichester cathedral, he lost his father when he was aged three years, his sole brother when he was five, his first wife when he was fifty-two; further, his only son died aged nineteen, and his second wife stayed with him for barely three years before leaving Felpham and returning to London. Such misfortune has also attended his poetry. Despite the public success of The Triumphs of Temper, and despite successful associations with many of the leading cultural figures of his time (Flaxman, Blake, Romney, Wright of Derby, and Meyer - the miniaturist, to name the artists; the writers Cowper, Anna Seward, Charlotte Smith – to name just three; and public figures of the stature of Robert Lowth, John Howard, Elizabeth Carter, Edward Gibbon, Thomas Erskine, William Mason), his work was omitted entirely from Roger Lonsdale’s, The New Oxford Book of Eighteenth Century Verse – although that is a volume containing work by around two hundred and fifty poets.

Hayley claimed that poets have duty ‘to raise . . . the dignity’ of poetry by making it ‘beneficial to life and manners’: it is a duty the writers in this volume have seized with alacrity. Because of their work, whether showing the relationship of Hayley to Voltaire, discussing the continuous string of distinguished visitors at Eartham, outlining the strength Hayley possessed as a writer of epigraphs, detailing the history of The Triumphs of Temper, explaining Hayley’s delight in the work of Romney and his understanding of Emma Hart, or engaging us in an expansive account of Hayley’s life at Felpham, we understand more about Hayley’s claim and learn to respect a man – until today (!) – almost forgotten by cultural, and indeed literary, historians.

Publication Type: Books
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CT Biography
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1010 Poetry
Divisions: Publications > Otter Memorial Papers
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Debbie Bogard
Date Deposited: 22 May 2014 15:37
Last Modified: 07 Oct 2021 08:22
URI: https://eprints.chi.ac.uk/id/eprint/1191

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