Known as an eighteenth-century British writer, philosopher, and advocate of women's rights, Mary Wollstonecraft has received much critical attention with particular interest in her unorthodox lifestyle of the time and is now regarded as one of the founding feminist philosophers.
Since the first publication of Mary Wollstonecraft: A revolutionary Life in 2000, further historical evidence has been discovered – a letter to Count Bernsdorf in 1795 – and Janet Todd has revised this 2014 Bloomsbury Reader edition of her biography to reflect the new perspective this letter gives to some of the events.
"Not only a splendid work of feminist history, this is an important addition to late 18th- and early 19-century literary criticism." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)
'All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn; for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds,' said Virginia Woolf. Yet that tomb, in Westminster Abbey, records one of the few uncontested facts about this Restoration playwright, poet of the erotic and bisexual, political propagandist, novelist and spy: the date of her death, 16 April 1689. For the rest secrecy and duplicity are almost the key to her life. She loved codes, making and breaking them; writing her life becomes a decoding of a passionate but playful woman.
In this revised biography, Janet Todd draws on documents she has rediscovered in the Dutch archives, and on Behn's own writings, to tell a story of court, diplomatic and sexual intrigue, and of the rise from humble origins of the first woman to earn her living as a professional writer.
Aphra Behn's first notable employment was as a royal spy in Holland; she had probably also spied in Surinam. It was not until she was in her thirties that she published the first of the nineteen plays and other works which established her fame (though not riches) among her 'good, sweet, honey-candied readers'. Many of her works were openly erotic, indeed as frank as anything by her friends Wycherley and Rochester. Some also offered an inside view of court and political intrigues, and Todd reveals the historical scandals and legal cases behind some of Behn's most famous 'fictions'.
Janet Todd, novelist and internationally renowned scholar, was president of Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge, and a Professor at Rutgers, NJ. An expert on women's writing and feminism, she has written about many writers, including Jane Austen, the Shelley Circle, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Aphra Behn.
'Ground-breaking it reads quickly and lightly. Even Todd's throwaway lines are steeped in learning' Women's Review of Books
'A major biography; of interest to everyone who cares about women as writers' Times Higher Education Supplement
Todd reconstructs the development of feminist literary history fromthe 1960s through to the present day, highlighting the centralthemes as well as the strengths and weaknesses. She then examinesthe debate between American feminist critics, on the one hand, andfeminist critics inspired by the work of French theorists such asKristeva, Irigaray and Cixous, on the other. She defends feministliterary history against its critics and casts doubt on some of theuses of psychoanalysis in feminism. Todd also considers the debatewith men and assesses the relevance of academic analyses of gender,masculinity and homosexuality.
Feminist Literary History is a forceful and committed work, whichaddresses some of the most important issues in contemporaryfeminist theory and literary criticism. It will be widely read asan introductory text by students in English literature, modernlanguages, women's studies and cultural studies.
Like Amanda Foreman’s bestselling Georgiana, Daughters of Ireland brings to life the world of a glittering elite in an age of international revolution. When her daughters, Margaret and Mary, were at their most impressionable, Lady Kingsborough hired the firebrand feminist Mary Wollstonecraft to be their governess, little realizing how radically this would alter both girls’ beliefs and characters. The tall, striking Margaret went on to provide crucial support to the United Irishmen in the days leading up to the Rebellion of 1798, while soft, pleasing Mary indulged in an illicit, and all but incestuous love affair that precipitated multiple tragedies.
As the Kingsboroughs imploded, the most powerful and colorful figures of the day were swept up in their drama—the dashing aristocrat turned revolutionary Lord Edward Fitzgerald; the liberal, cultivated Countess of Moira, a terrible snob despite her support of Irish revolutionaires; the notorious philanderer Colonel George King, whose sexual debauchery was matched only by his appalling cruelty; Britain’s cold calculating prime minister William Pitt and its mad ruler King George III.
With irresistible narrative drive and richly intimate historic detail, Daughters of Ireland an absolutely spellbinding work of history, biography, passion, and rebellion.
From the Hardcover edition.