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A Feminine EnlightenmentBritish Women Writers and the Philosophy of Progress, 1759-1820$
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JoEllen DeLucia

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780748695942

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748695942.001.0001

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Ossianic History and Bluestocking Feminism

Ossianic History and Bluestocking Feminism

(p.50) Chapter 2 Ossianic History and Bluestocking Feminism
A Feminine Enlightenment

JoEllen DeLucia

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter examines the Bluestockings’ role in the development of the Scottish Enlightenment’s cross-cultural theories of human development and in the popularization of their literary equivalent, Macpherson’s Ossian poems. In addition to recovering the epistolary record of Elizabeth Montagu’s influence on major figures of the Scottish Enlightenment as well as the popular Ossianic feasts she incorporated into her London salons, it discusses the Ossianic imitations of Catherine Talbot, Montagu’s friend and contemporary. Montagu’s Ossian-themed feasts—attended by James Macpherson, other Scottish literati, and her Bluestocking circle—enacted the equivalent social relationships and produced the refined social sentiments conjectured in Macpherson’s poems and theorized in the Scottish Enlightenment. Montagu’s correspondence documents the Bluestockings’ responses to the work of their Scottish contemporaries and their contribution to the new maps of historical development generated by the Scots at mid-century. The final portion of this chapter argues that Catherine Talbot tested this emergent historical consciousness in her Ossianic imitations, which reflect on the Seven Years War and women’s role in the civilizing process.

Keywords:   Bluestockings, Catherine Talbot, James Macpherson, Elizabeth Montagu, Ossian poems, Scottish Enlightenment

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