CRITICS IN SEARCH of a distinctively female literary voice tend to divide their models into martyrs and warriors. We can all think of examples. Marianne Moore foreshadows the distinction in two stanzas of a wonderful early poem called 'And Shall Life Pass an Old Maid By?'
It copies to the life, some freak
Of sentiment in lavender sprigged silk; bids bloodhounds speak
From picket gates, adjuring every lonely optimist
That he press on, and hastening, be meek;
Or it depicts an Amazon
Harsh voiced and candle-cheeked, a sort of blunderbuss, a Don
Quixote, crashing wildly where incisive action is
Required - exploded - with its luster gone.
As these dancing lines are enough to demonstrate, Moore herself doesn't fit into either category. She is neither victim nor militant. In so far as she can be categorised (which isn't very far) she belongs instead with a quite different sort of female writer, with Austen, Compton-Burnett, Wharton, Pym or