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Tradition in TransitionWomen Writers, Marginal Texts, and the Eighteenth-Century Canon$
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Alvaro Ribeiro and James G. Basker

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780198182887

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198182887.001.0001

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Poetry, Pudding, and Epictetus: The Consistency of Elizabeth Carter

Poetry, Pudding, and Epictetus: The Consistency of Elizabeth Carter

(p.3) 1 Poetry, Pudding, and Epictetus: The Consistency of Elizabeth Carter
Tradition in Transition

Carolyn D. Williams

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on Elizabeth Carter (1717–1806) — poet, scholar, translator, essayist, and letter writer — a doyenne of the bluestockings. She had other skills, besides. Hearing a lady praised for her learning, Dr Samuel Johnson observed: ‘A man is in general better pleased when he has a good dinner upon the table than when his wife talks Greek. My old friend, Mrs Carter, could make a pudding as well as translate Epictetus’. Roger Lonsdale believes she ‘is perhaps doomed to be best remembered’ for this ‘intended compliment’. Elizabeth Carter, however, might have regarded this doom as a triumph, celebrating her struggle to balance the disparate, often contradictory, claims of matter and spirit, combining them in a harmonious unity. In Carter’s correspondence with Catherine Talbot (1721–70), her ‘Dialogue’ (1741) between Body and Mind, and her translation of All the Works of Epictetus (1758), the reader can trace a developing pattern of conflict and reconciliation that finally reveals closer and more intricate connections between pudding and philosophy than Dr Johnson’s antithesis implies.

Keywords:   Samuel Johnson, women writers, All the Works of Epictetus, Elizabeth Carter, matter and spirit

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