On The Death Of An Infant Of Five Days Old Being A Beautiful But Abortive Birth Elizabeth Boyd

(1733) The high sentiment reflected by Elizabeth Boyd's "On the Death of an Infant of Five Days Old, Being a Beautiful but Abortive Birth," was entirely appropriate to its era and form. By the third decade of the 18th century traditional religion began to lose its hold on the English imagination, prompting development of a cult of sentimentality that believed in human benevolence. Such sentimentality would give impetus a few years after publication of Boyd's poem to a seminal event in the development of the novel, Samuel Richardson's highly moralized and melodramatic bestseller Pamela (1740). John Locke had proposed that all knowledge derived from sensual experience, helping women in later decades to feel free to describe in writing personal experiences that molded their emotional and intellectual development. Both male and female characters on the stage indulged in emotional portrayals as society began to accept a kind of pluralism associated with the rise of scientific knowledge. Boyd's choice of terminology, such as symptoms, convulsions, embryo, and abortive, reflects an acute awareness of scientific ideas regarding physical phenomena. She also includes an idea prevalent since publication of Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan (1651) and its focus on matriarchy, that men did not have natural ownership of a child. The development of a middle-class readership helped boost the popularity of literature that reflected their own experiences.


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