This essay charts the reception of five widely read antislavery poems—Hannah More's Slavery (1788); Edward Rushton's West-Indian Eclogues (1787); William Roscoe's The Wrongs of Africa (1787 – 88); John Jamieson's The Sorrows of Slavery (1789); and James Field Stanfield's The Guinea Voyage (1789)—in contemporary review journals. It argues that these poets’ commitment to depicting the “enormous crimes” of British slavery in poetic form clashed with reviewers’ expectations of poetic diction, imagination, and representation, a conflict that arose from what I term “literary review culture” in the period. Understanding these responses can help us reassess the history of literary criticism as it was shaped by these poems’ efforts to delineate the inhumanities of the slave trade.

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