“To ‘leave my name in life’s visit’”

The Intersection of Age and Gender in the Literary Afterlife of Anna Seward


  • Francesca Blanch-Serrat Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona






Anna Seward (1742-1809) made detailed plans toward her posthumous legacy in the last decades of her life through the compilation and editing of her poetical works and letter books, as well as the negotiations for their publication. In having her life’s work and correspondence published after her death, Seward challenged societal and literary expectations already subverted by publishing in advanced age and asserted the value of her own production and, by extension, her literary authority, at the end of her career. While this is a known claim, this article aims to go further and examine this material and its reception from the perspective of age studies in order to ascertain what roles gender and old age played in both Seward’s self-presentation in this compilation and in the failure of her act of self-canonization. For this purpose, this article investigates the intersection of gender, marital status, and old age (the triple-layered “old maidism”) in eighteenth-century perceptions of age and aging, and questions how that intersection affected her work’s editorial process and its reception. To do so, the article addresses Walter Scott’s and Archibald Constable’s—her editor and publisher, respectively—treatments of the material and of the detailed instructions Seward left them in her will. Finally, it assesses the reception of the posthumously published works in three periodicals of the time: The Critical Review, the British Review and London Critical Journal, and The Monthly Review.

Author Biography

Francesca Blanch-Serrat, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

is a PhD candidate in the Department of English and German at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, where she also teaches at undergraduate level. She is a predoctoral researcher at the ERC-funded Project WINK: Trans-Genre Writing and the Gendering of Intellectual Value in Early Modernity, where she specializes in eighteenth-century women-authored texts in English. Her research primarily concerns women’s literary history and old age and aging, and her current focus is on assertions of literary authority and self-presentation in the later-life writings of Anna Seward. Her research has been published in the ES REVIEW: Spanish Journal of English Studies (2019) and in the anthology Persistence and Resistance in English Studies: New Research (2018). She authored the revised entry for Anna Seward in the Encyclopedia Britannica (2019). She may be contacted at Francesca.Blanch@uab.cat.


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How to Cite

Blanch-Serrat, F. “‘To ‘leave My Name in life’s visit’’: The Intersection of Age and Gender in the Literary Afterlife of Anna Seward”. Age, Culture, Humanities: An Interdisciplinary Journal, vol. 5, Jan. 2021, pp. 1-25, doi:10.7146/ageculturehumanities.v5i.130992.