Even at 850+ pages, this vast treasure trove of an anthology hardly exhausts the riches of British women's poetry from the Romantic era -- a remarkably fertile period that emphasized deep feeling, acknowledged the turmoil of darker & conflicted emotions, and sought transcendence & beauty in both Nature & the human psyche. Any stereotypes of meek, submissive women writing demure, insipid poetry are quickly dashed once you begin to explore these pages. There's intellectual rigor & philosophical depth to be found here, as well as passion & a yearning to break the bonds of everyday life. Yet there's also plenty of quietly sublime loveliness, sometimes shaded by fear or melancholy, and a sense of the tragic. Quite interestingly, there are several poems devoted to the poppy & the sweet, dreamy escape it provides through its opiates. Indeed, the theme of escape is a recurring one, with brooks overflowing their banks, birds winging into the heavens, violent storms & engulfing seas, seductive otherworldly spirits beckoning from the woods, and unruly longings that can no longer be denied.
Each poet is presented with a brief biography highlighting both her life & her work, while footnotes & end-notes are provided for further elucidation. There's such a wide range of material here that all readers will find poems that resonate strongly with them. I'm still making my way through this volume, and I've already made note of several poets whose work I want to explore further. For anyone who responds to the Romantic vision, this anthology is most highly recommended!