The Nine Living Muses of Great Britain

"The Nine Living Muses of Great Britain," by Richard Samuel, 1779.

(Left to right) Elizbaeth Carter, Anna Letitia Barbauld, Angelika Kauffmann, Elizabeth Linley, Catharine Macaulay, Elizabeth Montagu, Elizabeth Griffith, Hannah More, and Charlotte Lennox.


This painting was commissioned to honor the contributions of women, particularly the ones portrayed, to English society and learning. All the subjects are painted with their particular forte in mind. For example, Angelika Kauffmann was a respected female artist and in this painting she is seated before an easel.

The expressions on the faces of the women suggest intelligent contemplation/questioning - something the bluestockings were famous for.

The setting for this painting is the Temple of Apollo and the women are all in the character of the Nine Muses from ancient Greece. The roman dress of the women is meant to convey the intellect of Rome. Italy was a popular destination for travelers because of its history. The English people viewed Rome as ancient high-culture and as something to be emulated.

Elizabeth Carter

Mrs. Carter was taught Greek, Latin and Hebrew by her father, the Rev DR Nicholas Carter. She befriended Samuel Johnson and contributed to his periodical The Rambler. She was the author of Poems for Peculiar Occasions (1738), An Ode to Wisdom (1761) and in 1758 translated the complete works of Epictetus. She was lose friends with other bluestocking women, including Catherine Talbot and Elizabeth Montagu. She never married and was famed for taking snuff to stay awake during long hours of study

Anna Laetitia Barbauld

Miss. Aikin was educated by her father John Aikin, a Presbyterian minister and schoolteacher. She befriended Joseph Priestly and his wife in her teen years and the couple, along with her brother John Aikin encouraged her to write. In 1771 six of her poems were published in John's book, Essays on Song Writing. In 1773 she published a collection of her own poems and a year later married Rochemont Barbauld. The Barbaulds established a boarding school and educated youths. In the !790s Anna began publishing political writings. She was pro-abolition and pro-religious freedom and as a result received much criticism. Perhaps her most famous political piece is Sins of the Government, Sins of the Nation published in 1793 against the war with France. Alas Anna did not experience a pleasant retired life - after many wonderful years with her husband Rochemont deteriorated mentally and became deranged. She was forced to separate from him to protect her self and a few years later he died.

Angelika Kauffmann

Angelika began studying art in Italy as a child and in 1766 her friend J. Reynolds brought her to London. There she became known for her decorative work with such architects as R. Adam. Her pastoral compositions incorporate delicate and graceful depiction of gods and goddesses; though her paintings are Rococo in tone and approach, her figures are Neoclassical. Her portraits of female sitters are among her finest works. After marrying the painter Antonio Zucchi (1726-1795), she returned to Italy in 1781. Kauffmann was one of the founding members of the Royal Academy in London.

Elizabeth Linley Sheridan

Renown for her beauty and musical abilities, she was a celebrated soprano.


Catherine Macaulay

Catherine, like man of her bluestocking contemporaries, was educated by her father. At the tender age of two her mother passed away. Macaulay became a writer and historian. Her first work was The History of England: from the Accession of James the First to that of the Brunswick Line and was eight volumes in length. It was published over a period of twenty years (1763-83). She received criticism because of her colonial sympathies and her anti-monarchial stance. She wrote Loose Remarks in 1767 as a response to Hobbes. Later she wrote Letters on Education which demanded equal education of the sexes. Interestingly enough Macaulay met and corresponded with George Washington.


Elizabeth Montagu

Elizabeth "was the daughter of Thomas Robinson and Elizabeth Duke. She was educated at home, first by her father but later by DR Congers Middleton. In 1742 she married a man nearly thirty years her senior, Edward Montagu of Allerthorp, the fifth son of the first Earl of Sandwich. Their only son died in infancy. On the death of her husband in 1774 she inherited a vast estate, including a property in Sandleford, Berkshire, which she had rebuilt in the Gothic style on the advice of her friend Horace Walpole, and she also had built Montagu House in Portman Square in London. She was known as the Queen of the Bluestockings. Her most significant work was the Essay of the Writings and Genius of Shakespear (1769), but she also contributed to Lord George Lyttleton's Dialogues of the Dead (1760)." (Dolan)

Elizabeth Griffith

Mrs. Griffith was a well known actress and playwright. She was born in Ireland to an Actor father (Thomas Griffith). Her father owned the Smock Alley Theater were Elizabeth made her debut in 1749 at Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. She appeared in numerous productions at that theater and those in London. She married Richard Griffith in 1751 and had one child.

Hannah More

Hannah More "was the fourth daughter of Jacob More and Mary Grace, she was educated by her father, a headmaster, in order that she and her four sisters could support themselves by founding a day school. IN 1786 she wrote the poem "Bas Bleu: Or, Conversation," in celebration of the salon society headed by Elizabeth Montagu. She later befriended members of the evangelical Clapham Sect, including the philanthropist William Wilberforce, who persuaded her to join the antislavery movement. Her works range from plays (such as The Search After Happiness, 1773), to political tracts (Village Politics, 1792, in which she criticized Thomas Pain) - to religious works (Practical Piety, 1818). In Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education (1799), she advocated full education for both sexes" (Dolan)

Charlotte Lennox

A controversial literary figure. Lennox wrote her most famous poem, 'The Art of Coquetry' in 1750 which was published in Gentlemen's Quarterly. Elizabeth Carter did not appreciate Lennox's poem which talked women's manipulation over men and the world through love and feminine ways. Perhaps her greatest contribution to the literary world however was the satire The Female Quixote 1752 in which her female heroine gains all her knowledge through the romance novels of the time.


Copyright 2002: History 257 - Mount Holyoke College
This page was created by
Lee Haviland.