Mary Wollstonecraft is one of the most distinctive letter writers of the 18th century. She talked and thought on paper and her letters were a large part of the drama of her life. In them she grows from an awkward child of 14 to the woman of 38 facing death in childbirth. At different times they reveal her very modern desire to reconcile the irreconcilable: integrity and sexual longing, the needs and duties of a woman, motherhood and intellectual life, fame and domesticity, reason and passion. Written on the hoof in cramped lodgings or swaying boats, in the wilds of Scandinavia or freezing Paris, they form a remarkable autobiographical document. With flashes of genius, these letters are compelling reading.
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Mary Wollstonecraft (1759 - 97) was an educationalist and feminist writer. Part of the radical set that included Blake and Fuseli, her relationship with William Godwin and the birth of their child - Mary Shelley - outside of marraige caused great scandal after her death.
Janet Todd is Research Professor of English at Glasgow & author of widely-praised biographies of Mary Wollstonecraft and Aphra Behn, and most recently Rebel Daughters: Ireland in Conflict, 1798 (Viking, 2003).
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