‘The first of a new genus’: Proud To Be a Female Journalist

  • Caroline Franklin
Part of the Literary Lives book series (LL)


It was to 72 St Paul’s Churchyard where her publisher Joseph Johnson lived above his shop that Mary Wollstonecraft had made her way in August 1787 after she had been dismised as a governess. She had frankly explained to him her intention to live by the pen. ‘After a short conversation, Mr Johnson invited her to make his house her home’ and by the end of September he had found her a house in George Street on the South side of Blackfriars’ Bridge. She lived there for the next four years. As Johnson’s protegé, she worked her literary apprenticeship: described by the publisher to Godwin as ‘the most active period of her life’ (MAVRW, p. 67).1 Godwin gave a negative picture of her ‘miscellaneous literary employment’ which has remained the conventional judgement ever since. Hack writing tended to ‘damp and contract…the genius’; because answering ‘the mere mercantile porpose of the day…touched [the author] with the torpedo of mediocity’. The ‘daring flights’ evident in Mary: A Fiction evaporated and Wollstonecraft even stooped to ‘homilylanguage’ (MAVRW, pp. 69–70). But Godwin preferred the sentimentalist to the polemicist in Wollstonecraft. He underestimated what a moraleboosting achievement it was for a female autodidact to keep herself entirely by the pen in the eighteenth century. This formative period was crucial in the making of Wollstonecraft as a writer.


Eighteenth Century French Revolution Analytical Review Woman Writer Publishing Trade 
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Copyright information

© Caroline Franklin 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Caroline Franklin
    • 1
  1. 1.University of WalesSwanseaUK

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