The Love Letters and Poems of Anna Beddoes, Humphry Davy and Davies Giddy — an open access online edition

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How does a woman brought up in the era of sensibility – the revolutionary era of the 1780s and 90s – write about love and sex when free of the self-censorship that comes with publication? The love letters of Anna Beddoes are one of the few bodies of writing from the period in which we can access a woman’s romantic and erotic voice unmediated by ‘propriety’. Anna (1773-1824) was the wife of the doctor, chemist, poet, political campaigner and social reformer Thomas Beddoes (1760-1808). The Beddoes were friends of Coleridge, Southey, Thomas and Josiah Wedgwood, James and Gregory Watt, and Thomas and Catherine Clarkson. Born an Edgeworth, Anna was connected though family ties and friendships not just to her sister Maria but also to the Darwins and the Aikins. Based in Clifton, Bristol, where her husband established the Pneumatic Institution to research the curative effects of gas inhalation, where Coleridge and Southey planned Pantisocracy and gave political lectures, and where Wordsworth worked on his ‘Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey’, Anna was at the hub of a group of intellectuals and experimentalists pioneering new kinds of science, medicine, politics and poetry. She was an unconventional woman, with advanced ideas about women’s conduct and language, and she put these ideas into practice in her intimate correspondence and relationships. Between 1799 and 1809, she engaged in at least three love affairs — with William Wynch (1750-1819), and with two men of science who would go on to become Presidents of the Royal Society — Humphry Davy (1778-1829) and Davies Giddy (1767-1839). Letters survive from each of these relationships, mainly hers rather than her lovers’,  the overwhelming majority being to Giddy. In this open access online edition, we present them fully annotated, and in a format designed to replicate as far as possible Anna’s informal habits of lineation and punctuation. We also present the poems that Anna exchanged with Davy and Giddy — a rich resource of manuscript verse written after the style of Mary Robinson and Wordsworth.