Life Lines: Agency and Autobiography in Sarah Curran’s Poetry

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Sarah Curran (1782–1808) has been almost exclusively remembered as the fiancée of United Irishman Robert Emmet, executed in 1803 for treason. However, Curran merits study in her own right as part of an important but neglected circle of literary women centred around three Cork families–the Wilmots, Chetwoods, and Penroses. Supported by recent theoretical approaches to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century women’s life writing, this article examines Curran’s previously unknown, unstudied, and unpublished poems. Preserved in Wilmot and Chetwood family papers, the poems enhance heretofore limited understandings of Curran’s rich creative life and intellectual world. Curran’s unpublished poetry and the footprints she left in the early nineteenth-century Irish arts scene are significant, from her literary memorialisation by Thomas Moore and her standing in her wider social circle as a talented harpist, to her poetic and epistolary compositions honouring her personal relationships. This article rehabilitates Curran as a person of great creative ability in her own right, who was recognised and valued as such in her own time by those who knew her best, and rediscovers the agency she exerted in recording events from her own life in poetic form.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126-141
Number of pages16
JournalWomen’s History Review
Issue number1
Early online date26 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished online - 26 Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

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© 2022 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Sarah Curran
  • Irish women’s history
  • nineteenth-century poetry
  • literary networks
  • life writing
  • Irish Romanticism


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