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28 September 1989
The Works of Mary Wollstonecraft, Vols I-VII 
edited by Janet Todd and Marilyn Butler.
Pickering & Chatto, 2530 pp., £245, August 1989, 1 85196 006 6
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... Mary who? was the person I mostly seemed to be dealing with in the early Seventies, when I wrote a biography of the extraordinary woman whose works have now been collected for the first time, nearly two ...

Assertrix

Elizabeth Spelman: Mary Wollstonecraft

19 February 2004
Mary Wollstonecraft​ and the Feminist Imagination 
by Barbara Taylor.
Cambridge, 331 pp., £45, March 2003, 0 521 66144 7
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... some women who insist on fair salaries at the office try to pay as little as they can to the people who look after their children and clean their houses. One of the reasons Barbara Taylor thinks MaryWollstonecraft rewards our attention two hundred years after her death is that Wollstonecraft’s fervid opposition to sexism was based on a ‘root and branch’ egalitarianism not easily ...

Mother-Haters and Other Rebels

Barbara Taylor: Heroine Chic

3 January 2002
Inventing Herself: Claiming a Feminist Intellectual Heritage 
by Elaine Showalter.
Picador, 384 pp., £16.99, June 2001, 0 330 34669 5
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... MaryWollstonecraft, feminist heroine sans pareil, didn’t approve of heroines. Great Women – or ‘icons’, as Elaine Showalter prefers to call the three centuries’ worth of feminist ‘rule-breakers and path ...

Menagerie of Live Authors

Francesca Wade: Marys Shelley and Wollstonecraft

7 October 2015
Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft​ and Mary Shelley 
by Charlotte Gordon.
Hutchinson, 649 pp., £25, April 2015, 978 0 09 195894 7
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... There were​ high hopes for the son of Percy Bysshe and Mary Shelley, the grandson of William Godwin and MaryWollstonecraft, but the boy told his mother that all he wanted was a quiet life and a sailing boat. She wasn’t wholly disappointed at his failure to distinguish himself. When it was suggested at school that he ...

Narcissus and Cain

David Bromwich

6 August 1992
Mary​ and Maria by Mary Wollstonecraft, Matilda by Mary Shelley 
edited by Janet Todd.
Pickering & Chatto, 217 pp., £24.95, January 1992, 1 85196 023 6
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Lady Sophia Sternheim 
by Sophie von La Roche, edited by James Lynn.
Pickering & Chatto, 216 pp., £24.95, January 1992, 9781851960217
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... to blame: he was lacking in courage at times and wanted credit for courage at all times. What is strange is to see the same double bind in force against a writer as indifferent to worldly prudence as MaryWollstonecraft. Her vindications of the Rights of Men and the Rights of Woman, books of great originality and psychological acuteness, are as widely discussed as ever, and yet, to judge by the number ...

The Positions He Takes

John Barrell: Hitchens on Paine

30 November 2006
Thomas Paine’s ‘Rights of Man’: A Biography 
by Christopher Hitchens.
Atlantic, 128 pp., £9.99, July 2006, 1 84354 513 6
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... calls it) was written as an answer to Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, and Hitchens tells us that among others who wrote replies to Burke, along with Joseph Priestley and MaryWollstonecraft, was William Godwin, which he wasn’t. He says that, unlike Paine, Wollstonecraft advocated votes for women, which she didn’t. Paine himself, Hitchens says, was not discouraged from writing Part ...

The Professor

Marilyn Butler

3 April 1980
A Fantasy of Reason: The Life and Thought of William Godwin 
by Don Locke.
Routledge, 398 pp., £13.50, January 1980, 0 7100 0387 0
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... William Godwin is a man who cries out to be the subject of a life. He has everything: a repressed personality, ripe for psychoanalysis; a role in the high dramas of his wife MaryWollstonecraft, his daughter MaryWollstonecraft Shelley, his son-in-law Shelley and the infant grandchildren; a circle of interesting friends, many of them articulate enough to leave written records, and famous ...
28 September 1989
The Godwins and the Shelleys: The Biography of a Family 
by William St Clair.
Faber, 572 pp., £20, June 1989, 0 571 15422 0
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... sex. In his early writings, perhaps under the monastic influence of his upbringing, Godwin suggested that in the great scheme of things relations between men and women were a ‘trivial matter’. MaryWollstonecraft soon put paid to that notion. When he met her first at dinner in 1792, Godwin was irritated by her bubbling assertiveness. But he met her again, and his tempestuous relationship with ...

May I come to your house to philosophise?

John Barrell: Godwin’s Letters

8 September 2011
The Letters of William Godwin Vol. I: 1778-97 
by Pamela Clemit.
Oxford, 306 pp., £100, February 2011, 978 0 19 956261 9
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... never before, to attempt to understand the enigmatic William Godwin, the author of one of the great novels of the 18th century and of the founding text in the philosophy of anarchism, the husband of MaryWollstonecraft, the father of Mary Shelley, and the friend or acquaintance of almost everyone on the liberal left over 50 of the most intellectually exciting years in British history. In November ...
19 February 1981
The Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft​ Shelley: Vol. 1 
edited by Betty Bennett.
Johns Hopkins, 591 pp., £18, July 1980, 0 8018 2275 0
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... Madame – vous avez du caractère’, remarked a French gentleman travelling through Savoy in 1823 in the same carriage as Mary Shelley and observing her as she checked her small son Percy’s self-willed behaviour. She was pleased enough to report the compliment to Leigh and Marianne Hunt in a letter; and if she seems a ...

Forget that I exist

Susan Eilenberg: Mary Wollstonecraft

30 November 2000
Mary WollstonecraftA Revolutionary Life 
by Janet Todd.
Weidenfeld, 516 pp., £25, April 2000, 0 297 84299 4
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... MaryWollstonecraft’s defenders have always found their task difficult. Writing her life to disastrous effect in 1798, intent on establishing her as one of those beings ‘endowed with the most exquisite and delicious ...
1 August 1985
Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer 
by Richard Holmes.
Hodder, 288 pp., £12.95, July 1985, 0 340 28337 8
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... the present in the past, he begins by looking at the Revolution through the eyes of Wordsworth, but, needing the decisive experience of a first-hand witness, he soon becomes absorbed in the life of MaryWollstonecraft. Once again he follows literally and imaginatively where the biographical materials lead, discovering ‘a wholly different world-view of what a revolution required of its participants ...

The Perfect Plot Device

Dinah Birch: Governesses

17 July 2008
Other People’s Daughters: The Life and Times of the Governess 
by Ruth Brandon.
Weidenfeld, 303 pp., £20, March 2008, 978 0 297 85113 4
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... the book. Still more surprisingly, she chooses material that undermines her case. She describes six exceptional women, talented or spirited in ways that defy the stereotype of the governess. MaryWollstonecraft used her work as a governess to develop the ideas that were to make her a pivotal figure in the development of feminism. Claire Clairmont, briefly Byron’s lover, and the mother of his daughter ...

Carers or Consumers?

Barbara Taylor: 18th-Century Women

4 November 2010
Women and Enlightenment in 18th-Century Britain 
by Karen O’Brien.
Cambridge, 310 pp., £17.99, March 2009, 978 0 521 77427 7
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... without which the development of 19th-century feminism would not have been possible’. This was a huge innovation – so huge that its full implications took nearly a century to register. Even MaryWollstonecraft and Catharine Macaulay didn’t fully grasp its potential, although their arguments for women’s rights could not have been formulated, O’Brien insists, without the ‘sociological ...

They Supped with the King

Bee Wilson: Mistresses

6 January 2011
Mistresses: A History of the Other Woman 
by Elizabeth Abbott.
Duckworth, 510 pp., £20, 0 7156 3946 3
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... was ‘a heavily mascaraed woman in a corny movie, wearing a negligee and sitting around sulking and painting her fingernails’. She referred to her liaison with Shawn simply as ‘our life’. MaryWollstonecraft had mistresses in mind when she wrote of the ‘passions’ of men placing women ‘on thrones’. In Wollstonecraft’s view, such passions gave women a power of sorts, but they were ...

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