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The Commercial Traveller, the Imagination and the Material World

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

Abstract

Though she temporized her political despair by taking the long view in her history of the French revolution, Wollstonecraft’s ideals had been blasted by the Terror. She had got through by channelling all the force of her Utopianism into her relationship with Gilbert Imlay: envisioning it as an Edenic partnership of equals. Long before the French Revolution, she had idealized friendship as an earthly aspect of divine love in her Platonic early novel, Mary: A Fiction. The moral universe was the only dimension that mattered to her, so Wollstonecraft recognized no artificial divisions between public and private spheres. When her ideals became politicised during the revolution, she still saw fraternité as love for one’s fellow man in active daily life as well as social policy. As she lost her orthodox religious faith, she practised fraternité less in terms of the familial duties and personal charity which had driven her in the 1780s to make such strenuous efforts to assist her siblings and the Bloods, and to take in an orphan child. However, socialization and conversation remained for her, as for Godwin back in London, an essential component of the good life as well as of one’s literary vocation. Moral questions needed to be tested out in discussion and against the pulses of daily experience before they were disseminated to the wider world through print.

Keywords

Material World French Revolution Woman Writer Commercial Traveller Creative Imagination 
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.
    On MW’s concept of the imagination, see Whale, Imagination Under Pressure, pp. 68–97.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Braithwaite notes that postal links had been suspended with the onset of war. Despite the Traitorous Correspondence Act , Johnson had twice managed to get money through to her in Paris in 1793. His own letters to her seemed to have been stopped or intercepted. Romanticism, Publishing and Dissent, p. 132 and note.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Braithwaite, Romanticism, Publishing and Dissent, p. 145.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Abinger archive, Dep.b.210/4Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Beth Dolan Kautz, ‘Mary Wollstonecraft’s salutary picturesque: curing melancholia in the landscape’, European Romantic Review, 13 (2002), 35–48.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    On the significance for science and Enlightenment thought of travel accounts of Sweden see Brian Dolan, Exploring European Frontiers: British Travellers in the Age of Enlightenment (London: Macmillan — now Palgrave Macmillan, 2000), pp. 27–72, though only passing reference is made to Wollstonecraft.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Claire Tomalin, The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1974), p. 179Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    The following account of the case of the missing ship is taken from Per Nyström, Mary Wollstonecraft’s Scandinavian Journey (Göteborg: Acta Regiae Societatis Scientarum et Litterarum Gothoburgensis, Humaniora 17, 1980). Afterwards cited in parenthesis in the text.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Todd states that she sent them back from Strömstrad on the basis of the letter to Imlay of 14 July 1795 but there seems no warrant for this (MWRL, pp. 323–5). References to Letters from Norway are taken from WMW, 6 and henceforth given in parenthesis.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    On the origins of the turn to nature in travel writing, see George B. Parks, ‘The turn to the romantic in the travel literature of the eighteenth century’ Modern Language Quarterly, 25 (1964), 22–33, although Parks only makes passing reference to Wollstonecraft.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    On reasons for the lack of recognition of the importance of Forster as an influential intellectual and as a supporter of the French revolution, see Peter Morgan, ‘Republicanism, identity and the new European order: Georg Forster’s letters from Mainz and Paris, 1792–1793’, Journal of European Studies, 22 (1992), 71–100, though no mention is made of Wollstonecraft.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Nigel Leask, Curiosity and the Aesthetics of Travel Writing 1770–1840 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), pp. 41–3.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Charles L. Batten, Jr, Pleasurable Instruction: Form and Convention in Eighteenth-- Century Travel Literature (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978), pp. 72–4.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Leask, Curiosity and the Aesthetics of Travel Writing, p. 9.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    See Batten, Pleasurable Instruction, pp. 47–81.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    For a psychoanalytic analysis of Wollstonecraft’s use of a maternal stance with which to identify with nature, see Jeanne Moskal, ‘The Picturesque and the affectionate on Wollstonecraft’s Letters from Norway,’ MLQ, 52:3 (1991), 263–94.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Sylvana Tomaselli, ‘The death and rebirth of character in the eighteenth century’, in Roy Porter (ed.), Rewriting the Self: Histories from the Renaissance to the Present (London and New York: Routledge, 1997), pp. 84–96, 96.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Mary A. Favret, Romantic Correspondence: Women, Politics and the Fiction of Letters (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), p. 101.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    See: Mitzi Myers, ‘Mary Wollstonecraft’s Letters Writtenin Sweden: Toward Romantic Autobiography’, Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, 8 (1979), 165–85, 181.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    See Nancy Yousef, ‘Wollstonecraft, Rousseau and the Revision of Romantic Subjectivity’, SiR, 38 (Winter 1999), 537–57, 547.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Elizabeth A. Bohls, Women Travel Writers and the Language of Aesthetics, 1716–1818 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp. 140–69. See also Whale, Imagination Under Pressure, p. 94.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Ward lists the reviews which appeared as: Analytical Review, 23 (1796), 229–Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    The Notebooks of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ed. Kathleen Coburn (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1957), I: 259.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Mitzi Myers suggests Wollstonecraft anticipates Wordsworth’s pilgrimage in The Prelude in search of a reintegration of self, nature and society, for: ‘Underlying the seeming duality of personal and social motifs in the Letters is a continuous concern with human identity and self-realization, developed in counterpoint to the related themes of society’s improvement and nature’s values’. See Myers, ‘Mary Wollstonecraft’s Letters Writtenin Sweden: Towards Romantic Autobiography’, p. 166.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Printed for R. Phillips and sold by Joseph Johnson. The editor of the preface to the third volume boasts that it has already ‘decidedly taken its station among those intended to favour the progressional improvement of mankind’ but ‘has displayed no partial adherence to any one set of opinions, but has freely admitted arguments on opposite sides’. The magazine was a miscellany which depended greatly on readers’ ‘original contributions’, and called especially for information on ‘the present state of this and other countries’ (Monthly Magazine, 3:16 ( Jan 1797), 251.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    In ‘“A kind of witchcraft”: Mary Wollstonecraft and the Poetic Imagination’, Women’s Writing, 4:2 (1997), 235–45, Harriet Devine Jump compares the two versions, pointing out that Godwin drastically reduced the high value Wollstonecraft placed on the faculty of the poetic imagination. The Monthly Magazine version is quoted here, as it seems to be Wollstonecraft’s original, rather than the revised version reprinted in Todd and Butler’s edition.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Abinger archive Dep.b.210/6.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Caroline Franklin 2004

Authors and Affiliations

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

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