Great Britons, A Very Peculiar History

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Tristram Coffin By Robert P. Common types of primary sources include works of literature, historical documents, original philosophical writings, and religious texts. Read preview Overview. Siepmann Oxford University Press, Was Hinduism Invented? Pennington Oxford University Press, Military Review, Vol. It took her six weeks to write Vindication of the Rights of Women. She told her friend, William Roscoe: "I am dissatisfied with myself for not having done justice to the subject. Do not suspect me of false modesty. I mean to say, that had I allowed myself more time I could have written a better book, in every sense of the word.

In the book Wollstonecraft attacked the educational restrictions that kept women in a state of "ignorance and slavish dependence. The ideas in Wollstonecraft's book were truly revolutionary and caused tremendous controversy.

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Wollstonecraft was the first person to "explicitly to demand equality for women". One critic described Wollstonecraft as a "hyena in petticoats". Mary Wollstonecraft argued that to obtain social equality society must rid itself of the monarchy as well as the church and military hierarchies.

Mary Wollstonecraft's views even shocked fellow radicals. Whereas advocates of parliamentary reform such as Jeremy Bentham and John Cartwright had rejected the idea of female suffrage, Wollstonecraft argued that the rights of man and the rights of women were one and the same thing. Vindication of the Rights of Women was virtually forgotten until it was rediscovered by the feminists in the 19th century during their campaign for the vote.

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Mary Wollstonecraft wrote and published her great book In this book the whole extent of the feminist ideal is set out, and the whole claim for equal human rights is made; and although at the time it was little noticed, it has remained the text of the movement ever since. Mary Wollstonecraft's biographer, Diane Jacobs , has argued that "she was the first explicitly to demand equality for women" and that "her whole life had prepared her for this mission".

What was it about her life that produced a woman who was willing to challenge the ideas on gender that were shared by most people living in the 18th century? The book was in fact the "first feminist manifesto in the history of human rights. At the time of her birth, Wollstonecraft's family was fairly prosperous: her paternal grandfather owned a successful Spitalfields silk weaving business and her mother's father was a wine merchant in Ireland.

Mary did not have a happy childhood. Claire Tomalin , the author of The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft has pointed out: "Mary's father was sporadically affectionate, occasionally violent, more interested in sport than work, and not to be relied on for anything, least of all for loving attention. Her mother was indolent by nature and made a darling of her first-born, Ned, two years older than Mary; by the time the little girl had learned to walk in jealous pursuit of this loving pair, a third baby was on the way.

A sense of grievance may have been her most important endowment.

In her grandfather died and her father, his only son, inherited a large share of the family business. He sold the business and purchased a farm at Epping. However, her father had no talent for farming. According to Mary, he was a bully, who abused his wife and children after heavy drinking sessions. She later recalled that she often had to intervene to protect her mother from her father's drunken violence 10 William Godwin claims this had a major impact on the development of her personality as Mary "was not formed to be the contented and unresisting subject of a despot".

Mary had several younger brothers and sisters: Henry , Eliza , Everina , James and Charles When she was nine years of age, the family moved to a farm in Beverley where Mary received a couple years at the local school, where she learned to read and write. It was the only formal schooling she was to receive. Ned, on the other hand, received a good education, with the hope that eventually he would become a lawyer. Mary was upset by the amount of attention Ned received and said of her mother "in comparison with her affection for him, she might be said not to love the rest of her children".

In Mary became friends with another fourteen-year-old, girl, Jane Arden. Her father, John Arden, was a highly educated man who gave public lectures on natural philosophy and literature.

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Arden also gave lessons to his daughter and her new friend. Mary and Jane had a argument and stopped seeing each other. However, they did keep in contact by letter: "Before I begin I beg pardon for the freedom of my style. If I did not love you I should not write so; I have a heart that scorns disguise, and a countenance which will not dissemble: I have formed romantic notions of friendship.

I have been once disappointed - I think if I am a second time I shall only want some infidelity in a love affair, to qualify me for an old maid, as then I shall have no idea of either of them. I am a little singular in my thoughts of love and friendship; I must have the first place or none. In Edward Wollstonecraft's financial situation forced the family to move again.

This time they returned to a house in Hoxton. Her brother, Ned, was being trained as a lawyer, and used to come home at weekends.


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  4. Mary continued to have a bad relationship with her brother and constantly undermined her confidence. She later recalled that he took "particular pleasure in tormenting and humbling me". While in London she met Fanny Blood. The first object that caught her sight, was a young woman of slender and elegant form The impression Mary received from this spectacle was indelible; and before the interview was concluded, she had taken, in her heart, the vows of eternal friendship.

    Mary identified closely with her new friend: "Fanny was eighteen to Mary's sixteen, slim and pretty and set apart from the rest of her family by her manners and talents.

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    Mary could see in her a mirror-image of herself: an eldest daughter, superior to her surroundings, often in charge of a brood of little ones, with an improvident and a drunken father and a mother charming and gentle but quite broken in spirit. After two years in London the family moved to Laugharne in Wales but Mary continued to correspond with Fanny, who had been promised in marriage to Hugh Skeys, who was living in Lisbon.

    Mary said in one letter that her feeling for her "resembled a passion" and was "almost but not quite that of an intending husband". Mary explained to Jane Arden that her relationship with Fanny was difficult to explain: "I know my resolution may appear a little extra-ordinary, but in forming it I follow the dictates of reason as well as the bent of my inclination.

    Great Britons, A Very Peculiar History / Ian Graham

    Mary's mother died in She now went to live with Fanny Blood and her parents at Waltham Green. Her sister Eliza, married Meredith Bishop, a boat-builder from Bermondsey. In August, , after the birth of her first child, she suffered a mental breakdown and Mary was asked to look after her. When she arrived at her sister's home Mary found Eliza in a very disturbed state. Eliza explained that she had "been very ill-used by her husband". Mary Wollstonecraft wrote to her sister, Everina, explaining that "Bishop cannot behave properly - and those who attempt to reason with him must be mad or have very little observation My heart is almost broken with listening to Bishop while he reasons the case.

    I cannot insult him with advice which he would never have wanted if he was capable of attending to it. Soon after arriving in the village, Mary made friends with Richard Price , a minister at the local Dissenting Chapel. Price and his friend, Joseph Priestley , were the leaders of a group of men known as Rational Dissenters. Price told her that the "love of God meant attacking injustice".

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    Price had written several books including the very influential Review of the Principal Questions of Morals where he argued that individual conscience and reason should be used when making moral choices. Price also rejected the traditional Christian ideas of original sin and eternal punishment.

    As a result of these religious views, some Anglicans accused Rational Dissenters of being atheists. Mary missed her deeply and wrote that "without someone to love the world is a desert". She confessed that "my heart sometimes overflows with tenderness - and at other times seems quite exhausted and incapable of being warmly interested about anyone.

    Fanny Blood became seriously ill and Mary decided to visit her in Portugal. When she arrived she discovered that Fanny was nine-months pregnant. She successfully gave birth but within days both Fanny and the child were dead. Mary stayed on in Lisbon for several weeks. She and Skeys were drawn together in their grief but she had to return to her school and returned to England in February Wollstonecraft argued that friendship was more important than love: "Friendship is a serious affection; the most sublime of all affections, because it is founded on principle, and cemented by time.

    The very reverse may be said of love. In a great degree, love and friendship cannot subsist in the same bosom; even when inspired by different objects they weaken or destroy each other, and for the same object can only be felt in succession. The vain fears and fond jealousies, the winds which fan the flame of love, when judiciously or artfully tempered, are both incompatible with the tender confidence and sincere respect of friendship".

    Price held radical political views and had encountered a great deal of hostility when he supported the cause of American independence. Be the first to write a review. Add to Wishlist. Ships in 7 to 10 business days. Link Either by signing into your account or linking your membership details before your order is placed. Description Product Details Click on the cover image above to read some pages of this book! More Books in Biographies See All.


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