The works of Mary Birkett Card 1774-1817, originally collected by her son Nathaniel Card in 1834 : an edited transcription with an introduction to her life and works in two volumes
This thesis makes available the writings of Mary Birkett Card, a Dublin Quaker, as collected by her son Nathaniel Card in 1834. It provides an annotated transcription of the manuscript collection, with textual and editorial notes, and an introduction recovering her life within her cultural community. The writings consist of a spiritual autobiography, 43 religious letters, other prose pieces and over 220 poems. Two poems were published in her lifetime: A Poem on the African Slave Trade (1792) and Lines to the Memory of our Late Esteemed and Justly Valued Friend Joseph Williams (1807). The introduction is in three parts. Part 1 offers a biographical outline and sets Mary Birkett Card's childhood poems in the context of the Quaker community in which she grew up. Part 2 explores her autobiography, questioning concepts of a separate female autobiographical tradition. It then investigates her encounter with 'deist' thought, and later conflicts, after her marriage. These concern money (seeking to reconcile the spiritual and material) and issues of language and gender (a desire for'a pure language', linked to constraints upon women's speech). Part 3 contrasts her 1790s verse with her later poems, and epistles, arguing that embedded within these works as a whole lies a struggle with her literary imagination. Throughout, the writings are set within the context of contemporary literary forms in poetry, Quaker writing and women's writing. They are considered in relation to now current critical debates - on public and private spheres, autobiography, abolitionist verse, women's intimate friendships, domesticity, philanthropy and sensibility. It is shown that Mary Birkett Card's literary creativity was intimately connected with her Quakerism, and, moreover, with attempts to negotiate an ideal of Quaker womanhood. One important aspect is the challenge her work poses to assumptions, still generally prevalent, about Quaker women's far greater autonomy within marriage in comparison to women in society at large.