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‘We did not marry’: the Comedy and Tragedy of Marriage in Life and Fiction

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

Abstract

When she returned to London, Wollstonecraft found herself the figure-head of a circle of liberal women writers, all of whom were inspired to some degree by her revolutionary ideas and by her attempts to act on them in life. Two former actresses and established professional writers, the poet and novelist Mary Robinson and playwright and novelist Elizabeth Inchbald specialized in staging gender. The scandalous Robinson teased the public’s fascination with her identity as the Prince Regent’s ex-mistress by using various pseudonymous personae to correspond in verse with readers of the periodicals. The resolutely respectable Inchbald, author of A Simple Story (1791), was a pioneer in converting elements of stage melodrama into the ‘Jacobin’ novel of social protest. Inchbald socialized with the Siddons/Kemble theatrical circle, and the radical playwright Thomas Holcroft and his friend the anarchist philosopher William Godwin. The latter had become the chief spokesman for political radicalism in literary London after the publication firstly of his Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793) which demolished the moral basis of all governmental institutions, and secondly of his exciting novel of pursuit, Caleb Williams (1794), which targeted the justice system. The group read and commented on each other’s work in progress with conscientious candour.

Keywords

Sexual Desire Romantic Love Sexual Double Standard Unmarried Mother Sexual Slavery 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    For a full discussion of suicide and Wollstonecraft, see Janet Todd, Gender, Art and Death (New York: Continuum, 1993), pp. 102–19.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Abinger archive, dep.e.201–2.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    See Gina Luria, ‘Mary Hays: A Critical Biography’, unpublished PhD thesis (New York University 1972).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Microfilm of the Correspondence of Mary Hays 1782–1837, Carl Pforzheimer Collection, New York Public Library. Hays’s letters to Godwin quoted below are transcribed from this.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Abinger archive dep.c.604/2.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    ‘Autonarration and genotext in Mary Hays’ Memoirs of Emma Courtney’, Studies in Romanticism, 32:2 (Summer 1993), 149–76.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Rajan, ‘Autonarration and genotext in Mary Hays’ Memoirs of Emma Courtney’, 156.Google Scholar
  8. 15.
    Evan Radcliffe, ‘Revolutionary Writing, Moral Philosophy, and Universal Benevolence in the Eighteenth Century’, Journal of the History of Ideas, 54:2 (Apr. 1993), 221–40, 231–2.Google Scholar
  9. 16.
    Radcliffe, ‘Revolutionary Writing, Moral Philosophy, and Universal Benevolence’, 236.Google Scholar
  10. 17.
    See Lawrence Stone, Road to Divorce: England 1530–1987 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), pp. 273–89, 327–46. I am indebted to Stone for factual information about the marriage laws of the time.Google Scholar
  11. 18.
    Gilbert Imlay, The Emigrants, or the History of an Expatriated Family Being a Delineation of English Manners, Drawn from Real Characters, Written in America (London: A. Hamilton, 1793). Quotations in parenthesis in the text. For an analysis of its views on women, see Liana Borghi, Dialogue in Utopia: Manners, Purpose and Structure in Three Feminist Works of the 1790s (Pisa: ETS, 1984).Google Scholar
  12. 19.
    Elaine Jordan, ‘Criminal Conversation: Mary Wollstonecraft’s The Wrongs of Woman’, Women’s Writing, 4:2 (1997), 221–34, 224. See this article for the legal background to the case against Darnford.Google Scholar
  13. 20.
    Quoted from the Abinger archive in Mitzi Myers, ‘Unfinished business: Woll-stonecraft’s Maria’, The Wordsworth Circle, 11 (1980), 107–14, 110. On 2 February 1796 he had written to another aspiring novelist: ‘In a novel, do not trust to the independent attractions of the particular parts, but pay great attention to the concatenation & unity of the whole’. Abinger archive, dep.b. 227/8. Letterpress copy of letter to unknown recipient, perhaps Amelia Alderson.Google Scholar
  14. 21.
    Daniel O’Quinn, ‘Trembling: Wollstonecraft, Godwin and the Resistance to Literature’, ELH, 64:3 (1997), 761–88.Google Scholar
  15. 22.
    Perdita: The Memoirs of Mary Robinson, ed. M.J. Levy (London & Chester Springs: Peter Owen, 1994), p. ix.Google Scholar
  16. 23.
    Patrick Colquhoun, A Treatise on the Police of the Metropolis (London: Mawman et al., 1796, repr. 1806), pp. 334–9. Quotations from the 1806 edition.Google Scholar
  17. 24.
    Lincoln B. Faller, Turned to Account: The Forms and Functions of Criminal Biography in Late Seventeenth and Early Eighteenth Century England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), p. 194. See also Philip Rawlings, Drunks, Whores, and Idle Apprentices: Criminal Biographies of the Eighteenth Century (London and New York: Routledge, 1992).Google Scholar
  18. 25.
    Vivien Jones, ‘Placing Jemima: women writers of the 1790s and the eighteenth-century prostitution narrative’ Women’s Writing, 4:2 (1997), 201–20, 211.Google Scholar
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    See Tony Henderson, Disorderly Women in Eighteenth-Century London: Prostitution and Control in the Metropolis 1730–1830 (London and New York: Longman, 1999), pp. 14–50.Google Scholar
  20. 28.
    Jack D. Douglas, The Social Meanings of Suicide (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1967), p. 5.Google Scholar
  21. 29.
    These are not bracketed with ‘Letters on the Management of Infants’ which was relegated to the final volume.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Caroline Franklin 2004

Authors and Affiliations

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

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