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Special Features Index  

 
Spotlight English Literature: Lesbian, 1600-1900
 
  Woman-loving-women contributed significantly to English literature during the Restoration and Eighteenth Century and the Nine-
teenth Century
. Some described Female Romantic Friendship while others celebrated explicitly lesbian love.
 
 
 
  Aphra Behn
Aphra Behn
 
 
 
  Aphra Behn (ca 1640-1689) served as a spy for King Charles II and later became one of the most influential dramatists of the late seventeenth century. Her flamboyant personal life and her treatment of taboo subjects scandalized her contemporaries.  
 
 
  Lady Eleanor Butler (1739-1829) and Sarah Ponsonby (1755-1831), best known as the Ladies of Llangollen, eloped to Wales where they lived together for more than fifty years. Their relationship is an enduring emblem of romantic friendship.  
 
 
  Marie CorelliMarie Corelli (1855-1924) was a popular English novelist in her time, but she is now known chiefly as a camp figure who inspired E. F. Benson's Lucia.  
 
 
  Michael Field was the pseudonym of lesbian lovers Katherine Bradley (1846-1914) and Edith Cooper (1862-1913) who collaborated on a number of plays and eight volumes of verse, many of which have lesbian contents.  
 
 
  Vernon Lee (1856-1935) does not explore lesbian themes directly in her literary or aesthetic works, though her creative writing reveals a fertile lesbian imagination.  
 
 
  Anne Lister (1791-1840) recorded her romantic and sexual relationships with women in a diary written between 1817 and 1840.  
 
 
  Katherine Philips (1632-1664) was considered the "English Sappho" of her day. Two thirds of her poems concern erotic relationships among women.  
 
 
  Christina RossettiChristina Rossetti (1830-1894) was a masterful poet who was obsessed with her religion. Her repressed sexuality was vividly expressed in poetry that included intensely erotic female-to-female affection.   
 
 
  Sarah Scott (1723-1795) wrote novels that challenged the patriarchal sex-gender system of her time.  
 
 
  Anna Seward (1742-1809) was one of the best known English poets of her time. She had several romantic friendships with women and celebrated the Ladies of Llangollen in verse.  
 
 
  Edith Somerville (1858-1949) and Violet Martin (1862-1915), who published as Somerville and Ross, were partners in life and work. Their novel The Real Charlotte, is one of the finest Irish novels of the nineteenth century.  
 
  Related Special Feature  
 
 

English Literature: Renaissance
Romantic Friendship

 
 
 
  Photo Credits:  Portraits of Aphra Behn and Marie Corelli courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.   
  
 

 
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