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‘An Amazon stept out’: Wollstonecraft and the Revolution Debate

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

Abstract

The Dissenters’ campaign for full civil rights coincided with the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789. The nonconformist bourgeois liberalism of Price, Priestley and Burgh, based on Locke and the equality of all men in the sight of God, became spiced with a heady new radicalism. Gone was the Whiggish myth that reform only meant a return to an earlier better-balanced constitution. Thomas Paine, William Blake and William Godwin, all from artisan-class Dissenting roots but having abandoned institutional religion, boldly proclaimed that the rights of all men were natural and inalienable. The reform of parliament and the constitution was just the beginning of the progress they imagined. The plight of the rural poor and the new urban and industrialized working class cried out for social and economic reform. Lower-class agitators such as Thomas Spence and Daniel Eaton arose and publicized their communitarian schemes for redistributing land or wealth in ballad sheets and broadsides.1

Keywords

French Revolution Female Education Woman Writer Literary Life Institutional Religion 
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.
    See H.T. Dickinson, Liberty and Property: Political Ideology in Eighteenth-Century Britain (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1977), p. 253.Google Scholar
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    Jack Fruchtman, Jr, Thomas Paine: Apostle of Freedom (New York and London: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1994), p. 200.Google Scholar
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    Quotations, henceforth cited in parenthesis, are from D.O. Thomas (ed.), Richard Price: Political Writings (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), where the typography of the sixth edition has unfortunately been modernized.Google Scholar
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    On Wollstonecraft’s attempt to reconcile religious faith and radical principles, see Daniel Robinson, ‘Theodicy versus Feminist Strategy in Mary Woll-stonecraft’s Fiction’, Eighteenth-Century Fiction, 9:2 (Jan. 1997), 183–202, 197.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Quotations, henceforth cited in parenthesis, are taken from The Writings and Speeches of Edmund Burke, vol.8, The French Revolution 1790–1794, eds L.G. Mitchell and William B. Todd. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), p. 61.Google Scholar
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    See Syndy McMillen Conger, ‘The sentimental logic of Wollstonecraft’s prose’, Prose Studies 10:2 (Sept. 1987), 143–58.Google Scholar
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    Godwin once wrote more frankly of Fuseli: ‘He was the most frankly ingenuous and conceited man I ever knew. He could not bear to be eclipsed or put in the background for a moment. He scorned to be less than highest. He was an excellent hater; he hated a dull fellow, as men of wit and talents naturally do, and he hated a brilliant man, because he could not bear a brother near the throne. He once dined at my house with Curran, Grattan, and two or three men of that stamp; and retiring suddenly to the drawing-room, told Mrs Godwin that he could not think why he was invited to meet such wretched company’, The Collected English Letters of Henry Fuseli, ed. David H. Weinglass (London, New York and Nendeln: Kraus International, 1928), p. 509.Google Scholar
  40. 43.
    Knowles, Life and Writing of Henry Fuseli, I: 168.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Caroline Franklin 2004

Authors and Affiliations

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

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