The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Victorian Women's Writing

Living Edition
| Editors: Lesa Scholl (Editor-in-Chief)

Sapphic Poetry

Living reference work entry


The Ancient Greek poet Sappho was understood to represent both lyric poetry and female creativity, and was an inspiring figure for many Victorian women poets. Sappho also became a lens through which female literary production was critiqued. The Victorian Age also saw the recovery and translation of much of Sappho’s work into English, providing broader access to the ancient texts. Sappho’s poetic legacy further provided an inspiring image of homoerotic community between women.


In the Victorian era, the Ancient Greek poet Sappho was repeatedly lauded as the greatest poet of all time. She was understood to represent both lyric poetry as a genre and female creativity specifically. Thus for many women poets of the nineteenth century, Sappho of Lesbos was an immensely inspiring figure. Women poets were often referred to by the epithets that associated them with this originating icon. For example, dedicatory verses to Mary Robinson in 1806 described her as the “British...


Sappho Poetry, lyric poetry Greek literature Mythology Homoeroticism Women’s higher education Sexuality 
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Beckman, Linda Hunt. 2000. Amy Levy: Her life and letters. Athens: Ohio University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bernstein, Susan David. 2013. Roomscape: Women writers in the British museum from George Eliot to Virginia Woolf. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Custance, Olive. 1897. Opals. London: John Lane.Google Scholar
  4. Field, Michael (Katharine Bradley, and Edith Cooper). 1889. Long Ago. London: George Bell & Sons.Google Scholar
  5. Lake, Carolyn. 2014. “All the world is blind”: Unveiling same-sex desire in the poetry of Amy Levy. In Changing the Victorian subject, ed. Maggie Tonkin, Mandy Treagus, Madeleine Seys, and Sharon Crozier-De Rosa. Adelaide: University of Adelaide Press.Google Scholar
  6. Levy, Amy. 1888. The poetry of Christina Rossetti. The Woman’s World 1 (February 1888): 178–180.Google Scholar
  7. ———. 1889. A London Plane-Tree and Other Verse. London: T. Fisher Unwin.Google Scholar
  8. ———. 1891. A minor poet and other verse. London: T. Fisher Unwin.Google Scholar
  9. Olverson, Tracy D. 2009. Women writers and the dark side of late-Victorian Hellenism. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  10. Peterson, Linda H. 2016. Vigo street Sapphos: The Bodley head press and women’s poetry of the 1890s. In The history of British Women’s writing, 1880–1920, ed. Holly A. Laird. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  11. Prins, Yopie. 1999. Victorian Sappho. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Reynolds, Margaret. 2003. The Sappho history. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  13. Swinburne, Algernon Charles. 1866. Poems and ballads. London: J.C. Hotten.Google Scholar
  14. Thain, Marion. 2007. Poetry. In The Cambridge Companion to the Fin de Siècle, ed. Gail Marshall, 223–240. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Weliver, Phyllis. 2005. Introduction. In The figure of music in nineteenth-century british poetry, ed. Phyllis Weliver, 1–24. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  16. Wharton, Henry Thornton. 1885. Sappho: Memoir, text, selected renderings, and a literal translation. London: David Stott.Google Scholar

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Loughborough UniversityLoughboroughUK

Section editors and affiliations

  • Emily Morris
    • 1
  1. 1.St. Thomas More CollegeUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada