Patrons, Peers and Subscribers: The Publication of Mary Barber's Poems on Several Occasions (1734)
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Mary Barber's volume Poems on Several Occasions (1734) was one of the first collections of poetry written by a woman to be published by subscription. The subscription list to this volume, which comprised 918 names -- including a number of illustrious political, literary, and cultural figures -- is a testament to her extensive involvement in the cultural and social circles of Dublin, Tunbridge Wells, Bath, and London during the decade spanning 1725-1735. This thesis holds that Barber's significance lies both, in her achievement as the poet who attracted the most subscriptions from the widest possible range of supporters in the first half of the eighteenth century and, in her development of sophisticated strategies to foster patronage relationships and garner subscriptions. By interrogating Barber's patronage relationships and subscription practices this thesis provides a more complete picture of her literary activities. In a wider sense it reflects the way in which the careful management of patronage relationships and employment of subscription as a method of publication, enabled women to successfully access the sphere of print in early eighteenth-century England. This research thereby adds a new dimension to our understanding of the history of subscription publishing in the period. Barber's early years as a writer were crucial to her successful use of subscription publishing, thus it is necessary to provide a brief history of the events that led to the printing of her Poems. The first chapter examines Barber's earliest patronage relationships in Dublin , with the Carterets, Delany and Swift , through a detailed analysis of three poems printed in 1725: To the Right Honourable the Lord Carteret On Seeing a Poem Intitled The Birth of Manly Virtue; The Widow's Address to the Right Hon. the Lady Carteret; and To the Honourable Miss Carteret. This chapter explores how Barber adopted authorial strategies in these poems as a means of approaching Lord Carteret and his family. The second chapter introduces Constantia Grierson, and investigates her role as Barber's friend and supporter. This chapter argues for a broader view of patronage and its functions during the period and shows how literary friendship was a mutual, supportive interaction. The third chapter provides, for the first time, a full contextual and statistical analysis of Barber's subscription list, which allows for an authoritative rather than speculative commentary upon Barber's subscription. The fourth chapter provides the first comprehensive narrative account of Barber's subscription endeavour in England, which took her three years to complete with a view to assessing Barber's subscription success. The concluding chapter investigates the events leading up to the publication of her volume, Poems, in order to complete the picture of Barber's subscription endeavour. While critics have argued that various obstacles, including arrest and illness, led to bankruptcy and eventual obscurity, I argue for Barber's ability to navigate strategically these obstacles and successfully publish her Poems.
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