Wikipedia Assignment: Elizabeth Singer Rowe

I chose to do my Wikipedia assignment on Elizabeth Singer Rowe.  I picked her because the initial Wikipedia entry was extremely vague and short.  I thought that it would probably be much easier to tackle this assignment with an entry that has little to no information, as opposed to one that is overflowing with edits, facts and entries.

This is the information currently provided on Wikipedia:

She was the eldest daughter of Elizabeth Portnell and Walter Singer, a dissenting minister. Born in Ilchester, Somerset, England, she began writing at the age of twelve and when she was nineteen, began a correspondence with John Dunton, bookseller and founder of the Athenian Society.

Between 1693 and 1696 she was the principal contributor of poetry to The Athenian Mercury, and many of these poems were reprinted in Poems on Several Occasions, also published by Dunton. This, her first collection, contains pastorals, hymns, an imitation of Anne Killigrew, and a “vehement defence of women’s right to poetry,”[1] in which she defends women, “over’rul’d by the Tyranny of the Prouder Sex.” The Thynnes, friends of Anne Finch, became her patrons. Courted by several men, notably Matthew Prior and Isaac Watts, she married poet and biographer Thomas Rowe, thirteen years her junior, in 1710. Their marriage was reportedly happy, but short: Thomas died of tuberculosis in 1715 and Elizabeth was inconsolable. She wrote the impassioned “On the death of Mr Thomas Rowe,” said to have been an inspiration for Pope’s Eloisa to Abelard (1720).[2] In it, she wrote “For thee at once I from the world retire, / To feed in silent shades a hopeless fire,” and indeed, made good her word and retired to her father’s house in Frome.

Her father died in 1719 and left her a considerable inheritance, half the annual income of which she gave to charity. Her literary production during these years was high, and most of the texts she published were devotional or moral. Though modern tastes may find these writings overly didactic, they were popular: her Friendship in Death went into sixty editions through the eighteenth century. At various times Pope, Richardson, and Johnson each praised her work. Despite the reputation of being a bereaved recluse, Singer Rowe maintained a wide and active correspondence and was closely involved in local concerns until she died of apoplexy at the age of sixty-two. Her works continued to be popular well into the nineteenth century, went through multiple editions, circulated on both sides of the Atlantic, and were frequently translated.

As was the case with all of the writers in this course, once I started reading and researching about her life, I was sucked in.  And I have to give myself an online ‘slap on the wrist’ for even admitting this…but I assumed that since the Wikipedia entry was so short and vague, there wouldn’t be much information available out there on this writer.  I thought that it was going to be TORTURE trying to come up with information to improve upon the current entry.  I could not have been more wrong.  This assignment really opened up my eyes to the world of Wikipedia and made me realize that (not that I would ever do research for a paper on this website) you have to dig into academic and credible sources to get to the heart of what you are researching.  That being said, it also opened up my eyes to the potential of this type of website.  It would be neat to have an academic version, such as Google Scholar, but for Wikipedia.  If used properly and well maintained, Wikipedia could be so valuable for students.  But as it stands right now, it’s best for it to be kept for searching out answers on trivia night, or for non-academic purposes.

Anyways, back to the assignment and the purpose of this blog entry.  With a quick search of the UNB online holdings (which I’ve grown very comfortable with since the library research assignment), I was able to find several peer reviewed academic journal articles about the life of Elizabeth SInger Rowe and her published pieces.  From there I searched the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography as well as the Dictionary of Literary Biography and SHAZAM! I had more than enough material and information to help me along with this assignment.  I really enjoyed the whole process of this assignment, and now that I have one Wiki under my belt…maybe I’ll venture into the real editing world someday.  Probably not, but who’s to say it will never happen???





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