Time to be wiser; Hester Thrale Piozzi's Elderly Life-Writing

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Angela Wachowich


Hester Thrale Piozzi is known by most literary scholars of the eighteenth-century as the biographer of the renowned Samuel Johnson, and as a literary salon hostess. Piozzi, like many ‘eighteenth-century’ female writers, lived well into the nineteenth-century, making her a part of the first mass of female authors to survive to an advanced age. In doing so, “she encountered a new set of complicated prejudices for which [she] was largely unprepared” (Looser). This presentation will present my research findings about Piozziana, a manuscript collection Piozzi compiled in her seventies, in light of these complications. In examining Piozziana in the context of Piozzi’s later old age, I argue that the process of its composition helped her to cope with being thwarted by the literary marketplace due to her age.
Piozianna became a tool for a reformulation of the self, through which Piozzi transitioned thinking of herself as an author, to thinking of herself as the executor of her literary legacy. This transition inspired her to seek out influential people to make her work live on after her.
I will conclude with an analysis of Piozzi’s commentary about her own poetry. In it, she alternates between moments of extreme self-consciousness, obvious false modesty, and direct self-praise. While these episodes have been depicted as demonstrations of Piozzi’s “limited self-awareness” (Spacks), I will show how Piozzi’s offhand commentary demonstrates her grappling with her artistic legacy.

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Breakthroughs and Adaptations
Author Biography

Angela Wachowich

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, English