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Guest authors. Classics

#Guestclassicauthors Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley. Mother and daughter who helped change everything.

Hi all:

Happy Friday. As you know I’ve been revisiting some of my posts about classic authors (I promise I’ll try to find time to do some new ones soon, but I was surprised when I realised it had been three years already since I posted this one,  and I’m keen on making sure they are in my new blog too) and people seem to enjoy discovering (or in some cases rediscovering) them. As I’ve been talking a lot about mothers recently, with anthologies and events, it seemed of justice that I should share again the post about Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter Mary Shelley. Two fascinating women who did much to change the way women were seen. And both lives, unfortunately, marked by personal tragedy. Here they are.
As you well know I like to bring you classic authors on Fridays. This time I thought I’d bring you a mother and daughter. Although unfortunately Mary Wollstonecraft died when her daughter (also Mary) was only a few days old (I’ve read 10 or 11) the two make a very interesting combination. Both are interesting women, both broke conventions (in the case of the mother, in particular, that haunted her reputation for years, even centuries, to come) and both are examples of the will to be yourself and to discover your own gifts and create yourself.

Mary Wollstonecraft

Mary Wollstonecraft.

There are many detailed biographies and I won’t attempt to give you all the details of her fascinating (although short, she died of puerperal fever at 38) life. I’ve left you some links but feel free to investigate by yourself.

She was born in London, in April 27th 1759. Her father has been described as violent (there are mentions of Mary sleeping across the door of her mother’s bedroom to prevent her father from beating her up) and very poor at managing his financial affairs and that resulted in the family having to move often. Her mother died in 1780 and she decided to earn a livelihood, not easy for a woman of a certain class and education at the time (as we’ve noted before, working class women have always worked. Women in rural areas have always worked in the fields apart from keeping a home and family). With her sister Eliza (who had left her husband and child encouraged by Mary) and fried Fanny, they established s school in Newington Green (1784). Based on her experiences there she wrote a pamphlet called Thoughts on the Education of Daughters (1787).

When her close friend Fanny died (in 1785), Wollstonecraft went to work as a governess in Ireland. Although the children of the family really loved her she did not enjoy the job and never got on well with lady Kingsborough, taking her as a model of the worst of aristocratic women, only interested in their appearances, vanity and status. She went back to London three years later and started working with Joseph Johnson, helping him set the Analytical Review, and becoming a regular contributor. She wrote one of her best-known works A Vindication of the Rights of Women in 1792. She denounced the position of women in society advocating for them to have access to the same educational opportunities as men (she also advocated for women’s vote).

In the same year whilst visiting a friend in France (it was the time of the French Revolution and many English intellectuals visited) she met Captain Gilbert Imlay, an American timber merchant. They started living together although they never got married and she had a daughter to him, Fanny. The relationship was fraught with problems and she visited Scandinavia in an attempt at keeping the relationship going, although he left her. She wrote: Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway and Denmark that became her most popular book of the time. She tried to commit suicide twice (once by drowning jumping into the Thames, the other one possibly by Laudanum poisoning).

Back in London she met again William Godwin, founder of philosophical anarchism. Although both were against marriage, they did get married when she got pregnant. She had a baby girl, Mary, but had a difficult labour (18 hours) and the manual removal of the placenta resulted in infection and she died a few days later (10th of September 1797).

Godwin published her unfinished work Maria, or the Wrongs of Woman, where she gave voice to a prostitute and also acknowledged female sexual desire, a scandal at the time. He also wrote a biography giving a detailed account of her life, including her suicide attempts and having had a child whilst unmarried and that gave prominence to the scandal rather than to a serious view of her work. In more recent times her work has been greatly vindicated by the interest of feminist historians and also philosophers and educationalists.

 

Links to Mary Wollstonecraft:

In Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Wollstonecraft

BBC History:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/empire_seapower/wollstonecraft_01.shtml

Spartacus Educational:

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/Wwollstonecraft.htm

Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/wollstonecraft/

OregonState page and link to read A Vindication of the Rights of Women on line.

http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl302/philosophers/wollstonecraft.html

Another link to A Vindication of the Rights of Women

http://www.bartleby.com/people/Wollston.html

Free Links to her books and writings (See also above for internet links):

Vindication of the Rights of Women:

http://www.amazon.com/Vindication-Rights-Woman-ebook/dp/B004TP7JMO/

Letters on Sweden, Norway and Denmark:

http://www.amazon.com/Letters-Sweden-Norway-Denmark-ebook/dp/B004TP232U/

Maria, or the Wrongs of Woman

http://www.amazon.com/Maria-Wrongs-Woman-ebook/dp/B0083Z4KAK/

mary-wollstonecraft-shelley

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Born in London on 30th August 1797 (we know all about that). Her father William Godwin looked after her and Fanny (Mary’s first child by Imlay). Although it wasn’t a very formal education, her father had plenty of connections and she had access to interesting ideas and met some of the most brilliant thinkers and writers of the time when she was still very young (Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth), including her future husband Percy Bysshe Shelley. She liked to read and daydream and also started writing at an early age.

Her father re-married Mary Jane Clairmont in 1801 but Mary never got on well with her step-mother. She had two children from a previous marriage and had a son with Godwin. Mary got on well with one of her stepsisters, Jane.

In the summer of 1812 she went to Scotland to stay with friends of her father, William Baxter and his family.

In 1814 (still very young) she started a relationship with Percy B. Shelley who had been a student of her father and was still married at that time. They ran away together accompanied by her stepsister (Jane Clairmont) and that alienated her from her father. They got married on 1816 when Shelley’s wife died (committed suicide).

They travelled through Europe and Mary lost two children. In 1816 during a summer when they were in Switzerland with Jane Clairmont, Lord Byron and John Polidori, on a rainy day and after reading ghost stories, famously Lord Byron suggested that each one of them should try and write their own horror story. Mary Shelley started writing Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus. (I understand that Polidori wrote a vampire story…) The finished version was published in 1818. This was published anonymously. The book was a big success and as Percy Shelley had written the introduction many thought it was his.

Her relationship with Shelley was difficult, they lost two other children but she had a son, Percy Florence (1819) who lived to be an adult. Her husband drowned whilst sailing in 1822.

She had to support herself and did it by writing (that wasn’t very easy for a woman at the time). She wrote several novels, including a science-fiction book (The Last Man, a dystopian novel). She also dedicated herself to promote her husband’s work.

She died of a brain cancer on 1st February 1851. She is buried at St Peter’s Church in Bournemouth alongside her father, mother and the ashes of her husband’s heart.

William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin,...
William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, St Peter’s Churchyard, Bournemouth (Photo credit: Alwyn Ladell)

Frankenstein is and will remain her most famous work; it has an enduring hold on people’s imagination, and it has seen many adaptations, to theatre, TV, film…

Links to Mary Shelley:

Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Shelley

New World Encyclopaedia:

http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Mary_Shelley

Links to movies based on her writings:

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0791217/

Biography.com page:

http://www.biography.com/people/mary-shelley-9481497

 

Free Links to Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s books:

Frankenstein:

http://www.amazon.com/Frankenstein-ebook/dp/B0084BN44Q/

Proserpine and Midas:

http://www.amazon.com/Proserpine-and-Midas-ebook/dp/B000JQUO92/

Mathilda:

http://www.amazon.com/Mathilda-ebook/dp/B00849RPGQ/

The Last Man:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Last-Man-ebook/dp/B00847OOMG/

Thanks for reading. And don’t forget if you’ve enjoyed it to comment, share and CLICK!

Categories
Guest authors. Classics

#Guestclassicauthor Sir Walter Scott. Scotland, History, Legend and Everything in Between.

Hi all:

As I told you on Tuesday, I’m helping in the selection process of a Historical Novel Award (the M.M. Bennetts Award) and I thought that gave me the perfect opportunity to share one of the posts I had dedicated in my previous blog to a writer who fits nicely in the genre. Sir Walter Scott.

 

Trossachs. Sir Walter Scott based his 'the Lady of the Lake' on this area.
Trossachs. Sir Walter Scott based his ‘the Lady of the Lake’ on this area.

It is Friday and it’s guest author day. I seemed to have to write about Sir Walter Scott as he kept appearing everywhere. When I was writing last week’s post on Frederick Douglass, he chose his free-man name by adopting that of one of the characters in Sir Walter Scott’s ‘Lady of the Lake’. I was writing about Jorge Manrique, who was a Spanish knight and poet, and that made me think about knights, novels… and Sir Walter Scott. And today somebody mentioned Robbie Burns on the radio, and that made me think of Scotland and… So here he is.

Henry Raeburn's portrait of Sir Walter Scott and his dogs
Henry Raeburn’s portrait of Sir Walter Scott and his dogs

Sir Walter Scott (he was knighted by George the IV and became First Baronet) was born on the 15th of August 1771. His father was a successful solicitor and his grandfather (on his mother’s side, John Rutherford), had been Professor of Physiology at the University of Edinburgh. He contracted poliomyelitis when he was only a few months old and spent plenty of time at his grandparents’ farm in the Scottish Borders, (Tweeddale) where he showed an interest in history and the local customs.

He attended the Edinburgh High School and then with his father’s encouragement studied law at Edinburgh University (although according to one source he never took the degree exams as he only wanted to become an advocate, but passed the bar exam in 1792). Although he persevered with the legal job, he started writing poetry when he was 25 (he initially translated German poems and works). In 1797 he married Charlotte Carpenter, the daughter of a French refugee. They were happily married until her death (in 1826). They had four children. Their first born died when he was only one day old. In 1803 he published a three-volume set of collected Scottish ballads, The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Borders. This was followed by many narrative poems that became extremely popular, like The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805), Marmion (1808), The Lady of the Lake (1810), Rokeby (1813) and The Lord of the Isles (1815). His depictions of the Scottish landscape, stories and customs helped to put Scotland on the radar and it became a touristic destination, fueling a fashion for all Scottish things.

He became Sheriff-Depute of Selkirk and a Principal Clerk to the Court of Session at Edinburgh. He continued to publish his own poems, reviewed, edited, set up a theatre in Edinburgh and helped fund the Quarterly Review in 1809.

Despite his great fame as poet (he declined the Poet Laureate in 1813 suggesting Robert Southey for the post) it would be his novels that would make him reach new heights in esteem and popularity. He published (anonymously) Waverley in 1814 (subtitled Sixty Years Since). This novel has been credited with creating the genre of the historical novel. Other novels dealing also with the Highlands and Jacobitism and forming part of what has become known as ‘the Waverley novels’ are Rob Roy (1817), The Heart of Midlothian (1818) and Redgauntlet (1824).

Sir Walter Scott's home 'Abbotsford'
Sir Walter Scott’s home ‘Abbotsford’

He associated with Ballantyne’s in his publishing company, and was badly affected by the bank crisis of 1825 (yes, this is not a new thing). He also had difficulties due to the financing of the built of his home at Abottsford. I have read variously that the debt amounted to between £114000 to £140000 (a fortune at the time). Rather than declare himself bankrupt, he placed his home and income into a trust belonging to his creditors and carried on writing his way out of his debts. He suffered a series of strokes and died on 21st September 1832. It seems that he had not fully paid his debt at the time but with the royalties from his books this was settled shortly after his death. He was buried at Dryburgh Abbey with his ancestors.

Some of his other novels include: Ivanhoe (set in England, 1819, probably the best known of them all), The Bride of Lammermmoor (also in 1819), Kenilworth (1821), The Fortunes Of Nigel (1822), Peveril Of The Peak (1823), Quentin Durward (1823), The Talisman (1825), Woodstock (1826), The Surgeon’s Daughter (1827), and Anne Of Geierstein (1829).

Sir Walter Scott was also one of the first authors to become internationally renowned and admired in other countries, and he toured often.

He was not only prolific, hard-working and principled, but very modest. I loved this comment that I felt I had to share:

While on holiday in Shetland he wrote:

…it would be a fine situation to compose an ode to the Genius of Sumburgh-head,
or an Elegy upon a Cormorant – or to have written or spoken madness of any kind
in prose or poetry. But I gave vent to my excited feelings in a more simple way;
and sitting gentle down on the steep green slope which led to the beach, I e’en
slid down a few hundred feet, and found the exercise quite an adequate vent to
my enthusiasm, I recommend this exercise (time and place suiting) to all my brother
scribblers, and I have no doubt it will save much effusion of Christian ink.

(I must thank Stuart Kelly at the Scottish Poetry Library for sharing it in his page. Link below)

Sir Walter Scott on poetry
Sir Walter Scott on poetry

Links:

Biography:

Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Scott

His digital archive at the University of Edinburgh.

http://www.walterscott.lib.ed.ac.uk/

BBC2. Writing Scotland:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00mr8yj/profiles/walter-scott

Website for Abbotsford, his home:

http://www.scottsabbotsford.com/

Encyclopaedia Britannica:

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/529629/Sir-Walter-Scott-1st-Baronet

His page at the Scottish Poetry Library:

http://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/poetry/poets/sir-walter-scott

SpartacusSchool net:

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/Jscott.htm

The Literature network:

http://www.online-literature.com/walter_scott/

Works:

His books in Amazon.co.uk (there a few free versions and many cheap ones):

http://amzn.to/1pPMqAi

And in Amazon.com:

http://amzn.to/1pPMqAm

This is his author page at the Project Gutenberg where you can find and download free e-books:

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/author/59

Some of the above links, like his digital archive, contain also online links to his works.

Images:

The header is from:

http://infinite-scotland.com/poi/sir-walter-scott/

And the quote above came from:

http://bhuwanchand.wordpress.com/2013/09/17/dailybookquote-17sep13-sir-walter-scotts-ivanhoe/

For more pictures and information about his home:

http://exploretheborders.com/sir-walter-scott-and-abbotsford/

And I leave you also an article quoting Stuart Kelly talking about Sir Walter Scott’s importance:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2010/aug/16/walter-scott-edinburgh-book-festival

Thanks for reading, I hope you’ve enjoyed it and if you have, please remember to like, share, comment and CLICK! Never stop reading!

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