The 18th century writer and poet, Anna Laetitia Aikin, was born on June 20, 1743, at Kibworth Hall, Leicestershire, England, to John Aikin and Jane Jennings Aikin. Both of her parents were Presbyterian Dissenters and her father was a Presbyterian minister and schoolteacher. Anna's education was conventional and she received most of her instruction from her mother. Eventually Anna convinced her father to teach her some Latin and Greek.

In 1758 John Aikin moved his family to Warrington where he taught theology at a dissenting academy. This is where Anna first met Joseph Priestley in 1761. Mr. Priestley's work is thought to have inspired Anna's own works. One of Anna's earliest poems was written to Mrs. Priestley, when the Priestleys moved from Warrington to Leeds, in 1767.

Anna's first published work was Essays on Song-Writing, in 1771.

In 1774 Anna married Rochemont Barbauld, a minister at a church in Palgrave, Suffolk. The Barbauld's would have no children of their own, but would adopt Anna's brother's son in 1777.

From some accounts, and Anna's own writings, it appears that the Barbauld's had a very happy marriage. Unfortunately, Barbauld became mentally ill, and eventually violent. In January 1808, he had attacked Anna, grabbing a knife from the dinner table, and chasing her about the room. She escaped him by jumping through a window into the garden. The couple separated in March of 1808, due to concerns for Anna's safety. On November 11, 1808, Barbauld escaped from his keeper to whom he had been committed, and drowned himself in the New River. Anna wrote of her grief and loss, seeking comfort in her religious faith, in her poem Dirge.

Anna Laetitia Aikin Barbaud's writing includes poetry, essays, literary reviews, educational tracts and political works. She was admired by Goldsmith, Coleridge and Wordsworth. Her body of work deserves more attention than it currently receives. She died in 1825.


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