“Death’s Refreshing Shade”: Elizabeth Carter, “Church-yard Poetry”, and Contemplative Retirement in the Gardens of the Dead

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

Abstract

In gardens and on country walks, Elizabeth Carter carried out a process of intellectual and spiritual cultivation which negotiated material objects and the universal abstract ideas they suggested—a process which also connected active sociability and contemplative solitude. This essay examines Carter’s ‘Ode to Melancholy’ (1739) to reveal that the churchyard—connected to gardens in the history of eighteenth-century landscape design, which incorporated artistic references to and the material bodies of the dead—was a central place for navigating these concerns. In the churchyard, it argues, grave markers and buried bodies stimulated transcendent thoughts of the afterlife while remaining powerfully present physical agents in the ‘here’ of the poem.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBluestockings and Landscape in Eighteenth-Century Britain
Subtitle of host publicationThe Prospect of Improvement
EditorsMarkman Ellis, Jack Orchard
PublisherBoydell & Brewer Ltd
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 24 Feb 2023

Keywords

  • Elizabeth Carter
  • churchyard
  • graveyard poetry
  • contemplation
  • retirement
  • Bluestocking
  • eighteenth-century poetry
  • garden

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