Adopt an Author |
|The Corvey Project at
Sheffield Hallam University
by Rachel Flower, May 2007
“The world considered her immaculate, and that single opinion, even had she possessed less powerful attractions than those of mind and person, would have been sufficient to establish his plan of regular seduction”1. An essay on a woman’s fight for equality in the works of Mary Robinson
During the Romantic era Mary Robinson was considered a celebrity. Renowned for her theatre career and turbulent relationships with men, she intrigued the nation and was subsequently hounded by the press. During the later stages of her life, she tried to reinvent herself as a serious writer. She became more involved with political issues, including the campaign to introduce rights for women. Robinson discussed her views through her literary work, in her poetry; we see her comment on the treatment of the Queen of France after the revolution, with the verse Marie Antoinette’s Lamentation, in Her Prison of the Temple. Robinson uses the Queen's role of mother, to depict her as a normal person and therefore show the injustice she faces after the French Revolution. "Why do MATERNAL SORROWS drench my face? Alas! because inhuman hands unite, To tear from my fond soul ITS LAST DELIGHT!"2 Her pamphlets were also designed to reflect her strong political views, in her political tract entitled Thoughts On The Condition of Women, And On The Injustice of Mental Subordination 1799, she argues that society perceives women as the inferior sex. "Custom, from the earliest period of antiquity, has endeavoured to place the female mind in the subordinate ranks of intellectual sociability."3 These examples show that Robinson was not afraid to discuss her political views through her literary work. However, her novels were not given the same political importance. As Adriana Craciun observes, "Robinson's novels and essays are even more forthright in their political claims than much of the poetry, yet...little has been said of her prose."4 Many critics saw her narratives as entertaining, almost silly stories about improbable incidents and happy endings. An anonymous reviewer from The Monthly Mirror observes that,
Her story is as romantic as you can wish, and there are among you so many lovers of tales of wonder about caverns, rocks, woods, lakes, castles, abbies, and manor-houses, that we make not the least doubt of your paying a visit to the pensive Angelina5
The novel genre was a style which was criticised for "contributing to the decline of literary quality."6 It was even condemned by other women writers, who believed that it discouraged females from reading educational texts. As Janet Todd observes, “many people were concerned with the effect of this fictional deluge, among them Wollstonecraft, who feared that women choose to live vicariously in the sensational world of fiction instead in the duller world of reality.”7 By looking at The Natural Daughter and Angelina I want to see if Robinson uses the genre as a platform for showcasing her opinions on the rights of women. Or whether they can be dismissed for containing nothing more than "fodder for circulating libraries."8 I will also compare her work to one of her contemporises, Mary Wollstonecraft. Through close textual analyse of her two novels Maria and The Wrongs of Women, I will aim to analyse how both writers reflect their feminist opinions through their fictional works. Wollstonecraft also wrote a political pamphlet entitled A Vindication of the Rights of Woman 1791, which she uses to voice her opinions on women's education and their position in society. Wollstonecraft believed that women were the equals of men, and not their inferiors. "Woman was not created merely to gratify the appetite of man, or to be the upper servant, who provides his meals and takes care of his linen."9 Most critics see Wollstonecraft's fictional tales as feminist texts which reflect the ideas put forward in her pamphlet. As Janet Todd observes, "in addition she followed others...in her use of the novel to direct attention to the social evils of inequality"10 Through close comparison of their works, my essay will aim to see if their novels deserve the labels given to them, or whether it can be argued that Robinson's narratives are just as effective in reflecting the feminist values that people associate Wollstonecraft with.
Mary Wollstonecraft was a woman who flouted social convention; she was condemned by society for her unusual ideas and values regarding the role of women. As Todd observes, she was vindicated for daring to suggest that women did not have to conform to the established ideal of femininity. “After her death in childbirth she was branded an “unsex’d female” and “whore,” whose vices and follies had brought about her provincial end.”11 Numerous parallels can be drawn between Wollstonecraft and Robinson, not only did they campaign for women’s rights but both struggled with their reputations, often coming under scrutiny for their unconventional relationships with men. As Fiona Robertson observes, "opponents of Wollstonecraft's ideas used her approach to relationships as a way of associating female free-thinking with sexual immorality."12 Critics during the period saw Robinson as a follower of Wollstonecraft, and this is one of the reasons I have chosen to compare the two. I want to see if Robinson does follow in Wollstonecraft's footsteps. As the critic in Gentleman’s Magazine suggests, "Mrs. R. avows herself of the school of Wollstonecraft; and that is enough for all who have any regard to decency, order or prudence, to avoid her company."13 Both authors allowed their emotions to control their writing, while others such as Anna Barbaulb shared similar ideas, but presented them in a more controlled way. Anne Janowitz also makes this point in the first section of her book Women Romantic Poets, she entitles it Sense and Sensibility depicting Barbauld as Sense, because her writing was governed by reason. "As 'Sense', Mrs Barbauld works up the poetic language of Enlightenment rationalism from within a religious perspective of deism, reflecting her own education through the polite restraint of Dissenting sociability."14 Robinson is characterised as Sensibility, because she allowed her work to be ruled by her emotions. "Mrs Robinson makes emotional poetry out of what Coleridge called her 'full and over-flowing' mind, drawn from the drama of the demi-monde of actresses and courtesans."15 Janowitz uses the title to comment on both women’s writing techniques, she is able to summarize the complex styles used by each author in a few words. She explains how Barbauld moderates her writing, while Robinson allows hers to reflect all her passion and ideas. “Mrs Barbauld is seemly; Mrs Robinson bursts at the seams.”16 Both women allowed their emotions to fuel their writing, and this is another reason why I have chosen to compare Robinson with Wollstonecraft instead of one of her other contemporises.
In the 18th century there were clear gender roles for men and women. As Vivien Jones observes, “gender difference seems a fundamental category of eighteenth-century forms of thought, shaping and shaped by the complex network of discursive differentiations and convergences that makes up the cultural texture of the period.”17 Women were considered the weaker sex because of their physical appearance. Not only were they deemed as physically weaker but they were also considered mentally frail. Because of this, it was seen as necessary to place them under the protection of men. Their bodies and all their belongings were initially the property of their father and then their husbands when they married. As Jones observes,
The law ‘regarded’ a husband as his wife’s guardian and he had the right to control her actions and even chastise her “with a stick no thicker than his thumb.” As this indicates, the law effectively infantilised married women, treating them as incapable of handling their own affairs.18
During this age writing helped to challenge defined gender roles, as it showed that women could be successful at a masculine occupation. As Jones examines, “Literacy carries the potential to transcend the gendered boundary between public and private; and even gender itself.”19 Nevertheless, women writers faced resistance from society, they were deemed as unfeminine, and their writing was often seen as a novelty, in which only a handful were accomplished enough to pursue. “Objected and contained as ornament of progress, women’s active and equal participation in literacy culture was less readily accepted.”20 Despite this opposition, writers like Robinson used their talents to highlight the unequal role that women were forced into playing by the restrictive laws of England. Jones acknowledges that women authors used their writing as a way of commenting on the rights of women. “At a more explicit level of resistance, women writers appropriated and redirected current discourse in order to make what in our terms would be described as feminist arguments on behalf of women.”21 Robinson was writing against a clearly defined and strict belief system which genuinely believed in the fragility of the female sex. Therefore, her feminist ideas were seen as radical and extremely pioneering. Her most shocking literary stance came when she wrote a political tract campaigning for equals rights for women, which the following paragraph discusses.
Entitled Thoughts On The Condition of Women, And On The Injustice of Mental Subordination 1799, the article condemned men for their attitudes regarding the softer sex. Robinson believed that men admired women for possessing beauty, but scorned them for displaying a great mind and independent thought. Robinson comments on the social pressures that are put on women, and suggests they are afraid to show their true self for fear of being reprimanded. "She disdains to be strong minded, because she fears being accounted masculine; she trembles at every breeze, faints at every peril and yields to every assailant."22 Robinson is critical of a society that suppresses the mental advancement of intelligent females. She argues that women are only valued for their physical appearance, and that their mental ability has been overlooked because men feel threatened by their intelligence. “Women have ever been considered as lovely and fascinating part of the creation, but her claims to mental equality have not only been questioned, by envious and interested sceptics; but, by a barbarous policy in the other sex.”23 She also argues that women are pursued by men for sport, because society allows them to act dishonourably, without the fear of condemnation. “Indeed we have scarcely seen a single instance where a professed libertine has been either shunned by women, or reprobated by men, for having acted either unfeelingly or dishonourably towards what is denominated the defenceless sex.”24 Robinson is also critical of women who reproach their fellow sex for acts they would overlook in a man. "The avowed libertine, the very worst of defrauders, is tolerated and countenanced by our most fastidious British females."25 These examples show that Robinson felt passionately about this subject, and was committed to changing society's views on women. However, her message is often more ambivalent in her other writing. In this essay I wish to explore the ways in which her other literary forms discuss her feminist views, and see whether extracts from her novels reflect the ideas she passionately campaigns for in her political tract.
Robinson was a business woman and her novels were a source of valuable income. Anne Close observes that Robinson would have been tempted to write fiction as it would have provided a valuable living. "Its consequent potential for commercial reward, were likely powerful practical incentives for Robinson, who struggled to support herself."26 This means her novels had to appeal to a wide audience, unlike her essay which was designed to cause debate and disruption. Because of this it can be argued that she could not afford to reflect such radical views in her novels, as she would be in danger of loosing her readers. However, Robinson continued to write fictions even after the demand for them dwindled. As Close observes, "Robinson insisted on writing Gothic fictions as her reviews gradually worsened, profits dwindled, and her health declined."27 If money was not a key motivator for her writing, then it can be argued that Robinson could have pushed the form further in order to include more of her feminist ideas. However, her commitment to the conventional elements of the romance novel, suggest that Robinson did not see her narratives as the main platform for discussing her feminist beliefs. Instead, as the anonymous critic from The Critical Review observes, Robinson's novels were mostly concerned with mocking fashionable society instead of campaigning for women's rights. "were we permitted to consider this novel as a burlesque upon the extremes of romantic absurdity, we should certainly pronounce it a work of merit."28
In The Natural Daughter, Martha faces persecution from society for her independent thought and actions. She is considered obstinate and awkward for refusing to be governed by her husband. Martha is warned about her unfeminine behaviour by her sister Julia, a woman who follows society’s values. ""Do not refuse," said Julia: "remember that it is your husband who commands, and I conjure you to obey.""29 Martha has been given the same education as a man, but society does not see this as an attractive attribute, instead she is seen as unrefined. “The unsophisticated Martha considered as a mere masculine hoyden."30 The word hoyden means a rude or ill-bred woman; however, Robinson shows that educated women can also be tender and feminine, without possessing a level of sentimentality which makes them weak. When Martha see's an injured baronet, she uses both her masculine and feminine attributes in order to help him. "Martha inquired eagerly how the baronet felt; offered her handkerchief; ran to the brook by the road side, and dipped it in the cold spring."31 Martha is concerned for the baronet’s health, showing that she does posses feminine qualities. However, her quick actions and rational thinking reflect virtues that are associated with men. This demonstrates that women benefit from having masculine attributes, as it shows these enhance rather than detract from a woman’s character. Martha's education and temperament is valued and praised by characters of good sense, and this indicates that the reader is also supposed to value her masculine traits. Through Martha, Robinson argues that an independent and educated female needs to be celebrated and not censored. These sentiments are also reflected in her essay; which ruminates on the reasons why men are scared of educated women. “A thinking woman does not entertain him; a learned woman does not flatter his selflove, by confessing inferiority; and a woman of real genius, eclipses him by her brilliancy.”32 Martha does posses a superiority of mind which is not usually found in a female character. The reviewer from The British Critic also alludes to this, by linking her to Mary Wollstonecraft, a writer who was renowned for creating strong unconventional female characters. “The heroine, a decidedly flippant female, apparently of the Wollstonecraft school."33 This example shows that Robinson does discuss her feminist ideas within her fiction, as the novel creates a strong female character who does not allow herself to be governed by men. It can even be argued that Robinson uses the genre to push her feminist ideas further, as they allow her to show the unfair consequences that can fall on women who are considered masculine. The novel is a useful tool for this kind of representation as it allows the author to disguise her views within a seemingly innocent text. As the critic Jacqueline Pearson observes, "Books provided women with a way of remaining in the home...and yet communicating...with the outside world."34 When reading a political pamphlet people are immediately suspicious of its content because they realise it is trying to influence them. People did not approach a work of fiction in the same way as "the novel tended to be gendered as feminine."35 Therefore young women, who might have been banned from reading Robinson’s political papers, could still see her strong views and ideas within her seemingly harmless fiction.
Martha does conform to marriage, a custom Robinson is critical of in her essay, because it can lead them into domestic slavery and stop them from using their mental abilities. "Woman is condemned to bear the drudgery of domestic life, to vegetate in obscurity."36 Robinson places this restriction on Martha, suggesting that (in this instance) she has sacrificed her feminist values in order to pursue the conventions of a romantic fiction which is defined below by Kristin Ramsdell.
The romance is "a love story in which the central focus is on the development and satisfactory resolution of the love relationship between the two main characters, written in such a way as to provide the reader with some degree of vicarious emotional participation in the courtship process.37
However, Robinson makes sure that Martha marries someone who respects and appreciates her intellect. Sir Francis Sherville is attracted to Martha’s mental refinement as well as her physical appearance. "Her mental and personal graces had made an indelible impression on his mind."38 This illustrates that Robinson believed a women’s mind should be valued in the same way as her beauty. In their political pamphlets we see that Robinson and Wollstonecraft still respect a women's place within the domestic household and agree that family life should be taken on by the woman. “I agree that, according to the long established rule of custom, such as household management, the education of children, the exercise of rational affection, should devolve on women.”39 Therefore, it can be argued that Martha's marriage to Lord Francis still complies to Robinson's feminist values, as it is an equal union where both partners love and respect one another. Martha will take on a domestic role, but Robinson makes sure that her husband will value that role and see her as his equal. Nevertheless, we can not forget that a marriage union was still one of the key elements of a successful romantic novel, and Robinson's narratives would not have sold without it. Ann Bourcis observes that the romance novel has to include a love story where the leading characters eventually end up together. “Romances…are about commitment, about two people who meet each other and decide they like each other, but something keeps them apart, so they both struggle, work, and go through whatever is necessary to ensure that they can be together."40 Therefore, it remains unclear whether our author chose this ending as a way of highlighting the advantages of an equal marriage, or whether it was highlighted unconsciously, while conforming to the novel genre. However, as Pearson observes, even the latter can be an effective way of highlighting important issues. "Reading...might also provide an indirect, even an only half conscious, language for appeal, complaint or rebellion."41
Despite being a strong and resilient female, Martha still relies on the support of men. She is rescued on numerous occasions by Lord Franklin, and even contemplates becoming a mistress in order to survive. "Mrs Morley's indignation was strong, but her necessities were powerful. She shuddered at the idea of sordid sacrifice."42 This quotation highlights the impossible predicament that women are pushed into; if they leave their husbands they can not support themselves and therefore can easily fall into prostitution. However, her pamphlet takes on a more defiant tone, and suggests that women do not need to rely on men in any situation. She argues that they can even follow them into battle, “we have known women...to brave the very heat of battle, stand to their gun, amidst the smoak and din of a naval engagement; conceal the anguish of their wounds.”43 The radical image which is depicted here is not reflected in Martha, who still conforms to some level of femininity, despite being considered masculine. She still follows the conventions of society and seeks support from a man who is in a position to help her financially.
At this important moment she recollected an old friend of her father's, a wealthy merchant, who resided in the city. She without reserve unfolded her situation, obtained an interview, pleaded her innocence and distress, and was promised both present pecuniary aid and future protection.44
Robinson's novels reflect a more realistic view on the treatment of women and the means in which they can overcome tyranny. Where as her pamphlet puts women into situations which would be seen as fantastical by the reader. She proclaims that women can follow men into battle, but the reality was that this was unheard of during the period. Robinson uses radical images of women in her pamphlet which are not applicable to her era, where as her novels are still controlled by the values of the age. This suggests that Robinson found her narratives restrictive, as it did not allow her to pursue her more radical ideas. Despite of this her novels can still be seen as a liberating, as the form did not stop her from taking a more subtle look into the rights of women.
Mary Wollstonecraft wrote an influential essay entitled The Vindication of the Rights of Woman 1791, which she used to campaign for parity between the sexes. In it she argues that equal rights must be given to women in order for society to develop. "There must be more equality established in society, or morality will never gain ground."45 Critics did not associate Robinson’s novels with her views on women, where as they were quick to discuss the feminist ideas put forward in Wollstonecraft's pamphlet with her fictional narratives. As Todd observes, "She followed others... in her use of the novel to direct attention to the social evils of inequality."46 Wollstonecraft thought that marriage (although important) should not be portrayed as the most significant achievement of a women's life. She argues that female responsibilities should be regarded with as much importance as the duties of their male counterparts. “Women, I allow, may have different duties to fulfil; but they are human duties, and the principles that should regulate the discharge of them, I sturdily maintain, must be the same.”47 She reasons that love is an important part of life but that it should not be held in a higher regard than intelligence. "To endeavour to reason love out of the world, would be to out Quixote Cervantes, and equally offend common sense; but an endeavour to restrain this tumultuous passion, and to prove that it should not be allowed to de-throne superior powers...appears less wild."48 In Mary a fiction, we see an intricate relationship between Mary and her best friend Ann. When communicating Mary’s feelings for Ann the narrator uses the same emotional language that would be used for a lover. "Her friendship for Ann occupied her heart, and resembled a passion."49 Their connection suggests that women can survive without the companionship of a man, an idea which Robinson never contemplates in her narratives, as they end in marriage. "Lord Francis solicited and received the hand of Mrs.Morley."50 However, in Wollstonecraft's novel Mary does fall for Henry, but he can never replace the relationship she had with Ann, as the narrator of the text points out. "Had Ann lived, it is probable she would never have loved Henry so fondly."51 I think that Wollstonecraft even suggests a lesbian relationship between the two women. This is shown by the dramatic words Mary uses to describe her feelings. "I cannot live without her! - I have no other friend; if I lose her, what a desert will the world be to me,"52 The relationship between the two women illustrates that Wollstonecraft discusses more radical feminist ideas through her fiction than Robinson. In Mary a fiction, Wollstonecraft challenges societies established views on marriage, by suggesting that women should not have to be their husband's slaves. This view was held by other women writers who opposed the belief that men had a godly right to rule over their wives. As Jones observes, Mary Astell could not understand why "regulation is divinely ordained, that wives should in consequence obey their husbands."53 Mary, a fiction shows ways in which women, through an equal union with the same sex, can help to regain some of the independence that they give away when they marry. Wollstonecraft uses her novels to question established views and argue that same sex relationships can be more for filling then conventional partnerships. Robinson never mentions this issue in her novels and therefore (in this instance) it can be suggested that Wollstonecraft uses her fictional narratives in order to highlight more radical ideas regarding women's freedom.
Robinson's novel Angelina takes a sympathetic look into the world of the fallen women. Through Miss Clarendon, we see how easy it can be for a female to lose her reputation and sink into prostitution. Miss Clarendon is aware that her name can be easily lost; she can not risk being seen in public with a man she is not engaged to, and that is why she pleads with Belmont to leave her presence. "If we are seen together, the consequences will be dreadful!"54 Miss Clarendon's dilemma reflects an idea discussed in Wollstonecraft's pamphlet. Wollstonecraft is sympathetic to the plight of the prostitute, and sees their fall from grace as the product of an uncaring society. "A woman, who has lost her honour, imagines that she cannot fall lower, and as for recovering her former station, it is impossible...prostitution becomes her only refuge."55 Robinson goes on to address this issue further, with the character of Mrs Chudleigh. She is the mistress of Sir Clifford and has been condemned to live in isolation after he seduces her. Robinson is sympathetic with her story; she is portrayed as a victim of an unfeeling society, rather than a notorious woman who needs to be punished. “Her example was the authority for universal neglect, and Miss Fitzfallen was destined to experience the insincerity of the world, at the moment when she most required its consolation.”56 This example shows that Robinson's narratives also dealt with controversial feminist issues. As Close observes, "Robinson’s notoriety allowed her a precarious freedom to reassess the importance of sexual virtue in the highly conventional, and contested, genre of the Gothic fiction."57 Mrs Chudleigh shows us that Robinson's novels contain far more sophisticated arguments than they are recognised for. Unlike Robinson, critics comment on the feminist content of Wollstonecraft’s fiction. Todd observes that her novels paint a “disturbing picture of the difficulties and denials inherent in a woman’s achievement of autonomy.”58 In the following paragraphs my essay will see if Robinson's descriptions of female suffering stand up against Wollstonecraft's overtly feminist novels, or whether there is irrefutable evidence that the latter surpasses her contemporary in this area.
In her pamphlet, Robinson highlights the hypocrisy of a society which condemns women for losing their virtue, when the professed libertine sees their seduction as a sport, in which he is never reprimanded. “The laws of man have long since decreed, that the jewel, Chastity, and the purity of uncontaminated morals, are the brightest ornaments of the female sex. Yet, the framers of those laws are indefatigable in promoting their violation.”59 When Lady Arranford suspects her husband has feelings for a young woman under their protection, it is she who must suffer the consequences of the man's actions. Society allows Lady Arranford to desert the young woman when she has no other means of support. ""You will do well to quit the castle child, said Lady Arranford. I have no farther occasion for you.""60 This shows the battle that women face in society, not only are they reproached for their own actions, but they are left to bear the burden of man's indiscretions as well. However, this novel does not let Lord Arranford’s behaviour go unpunished. In the end he commits suicide, driven to it by the sight of his dead mistress Mrs Chudleigh who he had abandoned. Sir Acreland retells how he finally ends his life. "I flew after him...but I came too late...for he had discharged both his pistols through his brain!"61 However, in order for Lord Arranford to meet his punishment Mrs Chudleigh also has to be sacrificed. We are told of her demise by the narrator, "The unfortunate Mrs Chudleigh is at last deserted."62 Through her narrative, Robinson is highlighting the injustices that women face in society. This example shows that Angelina can not be dismissed as a simple romance story, as there are clearly strong feminist issues addressed within its pages. A view that is also held by Craciun, "The novel's title, Angelina, suggests a sentimental novel riddled with love sonnets, yet what the reader discovers is a feminist meditation on arbitrary power."63 However, Mrs Chudleigh is only a minor subplot in Angelina, and her suffering is soon forgotten, when the main story is resumed. In comparison, Wollstonecraft's fictions never abandon feminist issues. In The Wrongs of Women, her focus remains entirely on the sufferings of a female who is let down by a society which allows men to have absolute power over their wives. Through a court scene, the heroine Maria is allowed to reflect on her own sufferings and criticise the unfair laws which are in place. "I was hunted like a criminal from place to place...laws sanction such proceeding, and make women the property of their husbands."64 This quotation suggests that Wollstonecraft's commitments to feminist ideas are more prominent in her fictional writing. However, it can be argued that it is unfair to compare Robinson's minor characters to Wollstonecraft's leading ladies. Therefore in the following paragraph I will compare two characters which dominant both women's fictional works.
In The Wrongs of Women, we hear the story of Maria, a woman who has been institutionalised by her husband. "Her imprisonment is due to her husband, Mr. Venables, who wishes to possess her fortune."65 The narrative focuses on the vindication of women, and the unjust power that men possess over their wives. Because this narrative is more obvious in addressing the issue of women's rights, it is easier to conclude that it is better at highlighting the issue. It can not be denied that the persecution of Maria is an effective weapon in campaigning for greater freedoms for women. However, it can also be argued that Robinson's texts are just as effective. In The Natural Daughter Martha is wrongly institutionalized and becomes a prisoner against her will, just like Maria. "Another consultation was held, and Mrs Morley was pronounced to be in the most decided state of raving insanity."66 Robinson's portrayal of women's rights can be interpreted as more powerful, as she brings a brutality to Mrs Morley's situation which is not reflected in Maria's sufferings. Robinson laments on the physical as well as the mental abuse which women can suffer from while wrongly imprisoned. "Her head had been shaved, and her limbs bruised even to the privation of the power of motion."67 In Wollstonecraft’s novel, Maria is allowed privileges and a love match even develops between her and another inmate. The hyperbolic language which is used to describe their relationship even reflects the mood of a romance novel. "So much of heaven did they enjoy, that paradise bloomed around them."68 With Robinson the reader is given a disturbing and shocking look into the life of institutionalised women, where as Wollstonecraft's depiction takes on a more romantic interpretation. Robinson does not foreground feminist issues in her narratives, however, when she does comment her descriptions are shocking and they would not go unnoticed by the reader. This paragraph suggests that Robinson's novels send out a clear message about women's rights which can more than rival Wollstonecraft's feminist novels. However, it can still be argued that Robinson's sparce insights into the world of women's rights are not enough to place her in the same category as Wollstonecraft.
The Wrongs of Women also highlights the prejudice that women face when trying to prove themselves as equals to men in intelligence, Maria comments that "a man with half my industry, and, I say, abilities, could have procured a decent livelihood."69 However this prejudice is also apparent in The Natural Daughter, when Martha tries, but fails to support herself through writing. "After sending several poetical pieces to the magazines and newspapers, she found that her thoughts were too refined, her subjects too delicate for the vitiated taste of the present day."70 This example shows that Robinson's desire to illustrate the inequality that women face is not abandoned in her narratives. However, she is more cautious to disguise these instances then Wollstonecraft. Martha's struggle to support herself is only reflected on when she has no other option to purse. The novel does not support the view that women should be able to work, where as in The Wrongs of Women Maria sees female occupations as something which should be celebrated and strived towards. In this example Wollstonecraft's portrayal of the issue is more revolutionary, as her ideas campaign for the rights of women to take on masculine jobs, where as Robinson's example only highlights the difficulties women face when trying to support themselves.
It can be debated whether Robinson's female characters show the same independence of mind as Wollstonecraft's heroines. In the following advertisement for Mary, a fiction the reviewer acknowledges that Wollstonecraft has given her character a strong self-governing intellect. "In an artless tale, without episodes, the mind of a woman, who has thinking powers is displayed."71 In Robinson's novel Angelina, Miss Clarendon is shown as courageous because she defies her father and leaves his protection, an action that would have been considered extremely defiant during the period. "Miss Clarendon has eloped from the abbey."72 However, she also displays weak female traits. Her rebellious actions against her father are motivated by her adoration of Mr Belmont. She is totally dependent on his affections and her friend Mrs Delmore even fears that she will be unable to live without him. "If Belmont expires, all will be over! For it is impossible that a mind like Miss Clarendon's can resist the weight of such a calamity."73 This mix of independence and reliance creates a female who can not compare to the strong characters which Wollstonecraft displays. In The Wrongs of Women Maria falls in love with Mr Darnford but she does not allow herself to be consumed by passion, as Miss Clarendon does. Maria is able to rationalise their relationship, and realises that it is not the most important aspect of her life. "With Mr Darnford she did not taste uninterrupted felicity; there was a volatility in his manner which often distressed her."74 Robinson's heroines do posses an independence that was rare in gothic narratives. As Close observes,
Her heroines, including herself, develop a political subjectivity, rare in Gothic fiction, which enables them to see beyond the immediate threats of their safety and autonomy and connect their individual sufferings with the far-reaching institutions and practices that repress women.75
This quotation indicates that Robinson's individual characters comment on feminist issues which affect all women in society. I would agree, however, the quotation also implies that Robinson’s characters live in the “sensational world of fiction”76 and therefore outside “the far-reaching institutions”77 that restrict women. Wollstonecraft's keeps her heroines within the “duller world of reality”78 and this allows her to place characters within these institutions. This makes their battle for equality harder, as they can never escape these restrictive organizations. Instead they must battle to demolish them from within their own structures. Because of this, Wollstonecraft will always be able to depict women’s struggle for equality in a more effective manner, as their fight takes place within a world which has deep rooted views on women’s rights.
In her pamphlet Robinson praises resilient women, and argues that they should be allowed to defend their honour in the same way as men can. She relates to the reader the story of “a foreign lady of great distinction”79 who challenges her lover to a duel, when he suggests that that they should sleep together before they are married. "The lady, on a sudden, started from her lover, and threw him a pistol, holding another in her right hand."80 In Angelina, Robinson does not recreate the same strong minded woman that we see in her political pamphlet. Instead she constructs a submissive heroine who does not fight to prove her innocence when her reputation has been questioned. Angelina has let a man dictate her whole life, and in the end she can only be saved by Lord Acreland, as her sister observes when she wishes that he would come and save her. "Every hour seems to proclaim the certainty of Angelina's fate. She steals slowly towards the grave...If Lord Acreland could but behold her."81 Angelina epitomizes the sentimental female that Robinson campaigns against in her essay. In her pamphlet she argues that it is demeaning for a woman to be totally dependent on her husband. "Is it not degrading to humanity that such a woman should be the passive, the obedient slave, of such an husband?"82 The novel Angelina suggests that these strong feminist views appear to have been sacrificed. Instead Robinson creates a sentimental protagonist who is in keeping with other romantic heroines. This highlights that Robinson’s main objective might not have been to reflect her feminist beliefs through her fictions. However, not every female character is like Angelina and previous paragraphs have shown that Robinson did create stronger protagonists, who do help reflect her feminist ideas.
Wollstonecraft creates strong protagonists, who do not conform to societies ideals on femininity. The advertisement for Mary, a fiction indicates that Mary is different from other women found in literature. "In delineating the Heroine of this fiction, the author attempts to develop a character different from those generally portrayed."83 I would disagree with this quotation, as Mary still displays many aspects of the sentimental character which Robinson creates. Mary allows her heart to over rule her rational feelings both in her relationship with Ann and Henry. In order to convey how miserable she is, the narrator uses over sentimental language, which would be more suitable in one of Robinson’s texts. "I am a wretch! and she heaved a sigh that almost broke her heart, while the big tears rolled down her burning cheeks."84 She is even governed by her parents into marrying a man she does not love, a fate which Miss Clarendon will not contemplate. "Mary stood like a statue of despair, and pronounced the awful vow without thinking of it."85 In their pamphlets both writers admit that women can not equal men in physical strength. "In the government of the physical world it is observable that the female in point of strength is, in general, inferior to the male."86 Wollstonecraft acknowledges that physical strength helps to govern gender definitions; however she does not consider the restrictions that ideological structures create. Although Wollstonecraft works hard to move away from a particular stereotype, society's views on femininity have helped to construct her. Therefore, her characters can never be free from these complex ideologies, and will always depict some form of femininity which is appropriate to these principles. Consequently, it can be argued that although Wollstonecraft's novels appear to break the stereotype forced upon women, she is still unconsciously trapped within it and therefore her narratives are no more revolutionary then Robinson's texts.
Robinson criticises women who vindicate their own sex. She uses quotation marks to elevate her language and show the urgency of the situation she is campaigning for. "O! My unenlightened country-women! Read, and profit, by the admonition of Reason." 87 Wollstonecraft takes the same stance, and both women confront this issue in their novels. Juliana in The Wrongs of Women helps to keep Maria captive because she can not afford to lose her job. The narrator acknowledges that women are forced into vindicating others so they do not suffer the same consequences. "The preserving her situation was, indeed, an important object to Jemima, who had been hunted from hole to hole, as if she was a beast of prey."88 Robinson's heroines are thwarted at every turn by vindictive women who are determined to ruin their reputation out of jealousy. Lady Selina does not hesitate to condemn Miss Clarendon, even though she knows her rumours are false. "Miss Clarendon is off! And who do you think is the companion of her flight? Sir Clifford Wilmot."89 It can be argued that Robinson's novel takes a more damning look into the motivations of females in society as her characters are nobility, a class which should support persecuted women. Wollstonecraft makes excuses for Juliana's treatment of Maria, where as there is no excuse for the vicious females who try to ruin the lives of Martha and Miss Clarendon. However, because each writer looks at the vindication of women by their own sex from a different angle, it can always be debated which method is more effective.
Sir Lionel Beacon reflects the libertine that Robinson describes in her pamphlet. A notorious womaniser, he sees seducing women as an exciting game in which he is never reprimanded. "I lived as an Englishman ought. I knew every opera dancer on the continent."90 Robinson is extremely critical of these characters; in her pamphlet she comments that society gives them absolute freedom. "Man may enjoy the convivial board; indulge the caprices of his nature."91 However, Sir Beacon is not punished for his actions, he is allowed to redeem his ways and fall in love with an honourable woman. “For the first moment in his life he felt a serious passion. Lady Louisa's bosom owned a powerful pleader in behalf of her truant favourite; and in a few days, with the consent of Lord Francis, they were married.”92 Through this character Robinson is rejecting the values that she fights for in her pamphlet. By not punishing Sir Beacon, Robinson is tolerating the libertine, and therefore conforming to the established view held by society. In contrast, Wollstonecraft's The Wrongs of Women highlights and condemns men who abuse their power. Maria is put on trial for crimes against her husband and the hypocrisy of her situation is revealed through her speech. "I exclaim against the laws which throw the whole yoke on the weaker shoulders."93 In this example Wollstonecraft's novel is more effective in emphasizing and condemning the actions of men, and therefore her feminist values still remain at the forefront of her writing.
Mary Robinson and Mary Wollstonecraft were part of a group who strived for women's rights. In 18th century England the word feminism had not even been created, therefore, any woman commenting on feminist issues would have to hold passionate views on the issue. My essay has aimed to show that both authors use their novels as a platform for voicing their opinion on the equality of women. However, this can always be debated as Pearson makes the points that "It was difficult to study women's reading because of tendencies to distort historical record, or to use reading in coded ways."94 Both writers use their generic form to their advantage. Robinson’s novels allowed her to work her values into fictional narratives almost undetected. This was a great benefit, as it enabled her ideas to reach women who might have otherwise been denied literature that campaigned for the rights of women. Wollstonecraft’s form also worked, as it permitted her to voice opinions, using a society which exactly reflected the age in which she was living. By replicating the period she was able to highlight its inadequacies and therefore show the reader what needed to be changed. Their fiction allowed them to show the restrictions placed on women through characters which people could relate to. However, for Robinson the novel form was also restrictive and during my essay I have shown many instances where she is constrained by her genre, as it forced her into following certain conventions. Despite of this I have also found many instances where her feminist values are voiced, and I have even been able to argue that at times, Robinson's fictions are more effective than Wollstonecraft’s in highlighting the restrictions placed on women. I feel Robinson should be remembered for her contribution to the era, but more importantly for her role as one of the first females who battled for women's equal place in society. An idea that critics such as Craciun already acknowledge, "Mary Robinson remains a chameleon figure in modern accounts of Romanticism, radicalism and feminism."95
Wollstonecraft put feminist issues at the forefront of her fiction, by basing her narratives on unconventional women who defy society’s customs. However, my essay has also highlighted the downfalls of Wollstonecraft’s texts. By comparing her heroines to Robinson’s, I have shown that her female characters sometimes conform with societies construction of femininity. However, although Robinson’s texts effectively highlight the restrictions placed on women, I feel that critics had good reason to label Wollstonecraft as the pioneer of her age for women’s rights. Wollstonecraft’s novels are unrelenting in their campaign, where as Robinson’s also had other agenda’s. In conclusion it is fair to say that Wollstonecraft changed the world, but it was women like Robinson who helped her do it.
1. Robinson, The Natural Daughter, Chapter 19, p. 148.
2. Pascoe, Mary Robinson, Selected Poems, p. 136.
3. Robinson, Thoughts on the Condition of Women, p. 1.
4. Craciun, British Women Writers and the French Revolution, pp. 80-81.
5. Corvey Women Writers on the Web. Ed. Dr Mary Peace. Sheffield Hallam University. 2 April 2007 <http://www2.shu.ac.uk/corvey/CW2/-19k>
6. Literature Online, Mary Robinson and the Gothic. Ed. Anne Close. November.
2004. U of Manchester. 18 October 2006
7. Todd, A Wollstonecraft Anthology, Part IV, p. 181.
8. Literature Online, Mary Robinson and the Gothic. Ed. Anne Close. November.
2004. U of Manchester. 18 October 2006
9. Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Chapter III, p. 92.
10. Todd, A Wollstonecraft Anthology, Part IV, p. 181.
11. ibid, p. 1.
12. Robertson, Women's Writing 1778-1838, p. 103.
13. Setzer, Mary Robinson, Appendix G, p. 326.
14. Janowitz, Women Romantic Poets, Chapter 1, p. 1.
15. ibid, Chapter 1, p. 1.
16. ibid, Chapter 1, pp. 1-2.
17. Jones, Women and Literature in Britain, Chapter 2,p. 47.
18. ibid, Chapter 4, p. 92.
19. ibid, Introduction, p. 4.
20. ibid, Introduction, p. 5.
21. ibid, Introduction, p. 14.
22. Robinson, Thoughts on the Condition of Women, p. 26.
23. ibid, p. 1.
24. ibid, p. 3.
25. ibid, p. 22.
26. Literature Online, Mary Robinson and the Gothic. Ed. Anne Close. November. 2004. U of Manchester. 18 October 2006
27. Literature Online, Mary Robinson and the Gothic. Ed. Anne Close. November. 2004. U of Manchester. 18 October 2006
28. Corvey Women Writers on the Web. Ed. Dr Mary Peace. Sheffield Hallam University. 2 April 2007 <http://www2.shu.ac.uk/corvey/CW2/-19k>
29. Robinson, The Natural Daughter, Chapter 13, p. 130.
30. ibid, Chapter 1, p. 93.
31. ibid, Chapter 3, p. 99.
32. Robinson, Thoughts on the Condition of Women, pp. 16-17.
33. Setzer, Mary Robinson, Appendix H, p. 327.
34. Pearson, Women's Reading in Britain, p. 2.
35. ibid, p. 19.
36. Robinson, Thoughts on the Condition of Women, p. 4.
37. IS 590: A Few Thoughts on Romance. Ed. September 2004. 3 April 2007.
38. Robinson, The Natural Daughter, Chapter 18, p. 145.
39. Robinson, Thoughts on the Condition of Women, p. 19.
40. IS 590: A Few Thoughts on Romance. Ed. September 2004. 3 April 2007.
41. Pearson, p. 93.
42. Robinson, The Natural Daughter, Chapter 35, p. 221.
43. Robinson, Thoughts on the Condition of Women, p. 13.
44. Robinson, The Natural Daughter, Chapter 18, pp. 145-146.
45. Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Chapter 9, pp. 100-101.
46. Todd, A Wollstonecraft Anthology, Part IV, p. 181.
47. Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Chapter 3, p. 95.
48. ibid, Chapter 2, p. 90.
49. Wollstonecraft, Mary, Chapter 8, p. 19.
50. Robinson, The Natural Daughter, Chapter 58, p. 296.
51. Wollstonecraft, Mary, Chapter 22, p. 49.
52. ibid, Chapter 11, p. 26.
53. Jones, Women and Literature, Chapter 1, p. 32.
54. Robinson, Angelina, Vol I, Letter XV, p. 187.
55. Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Chapter 4, p. 99.
56. Robinson, Angelina, Vol III, Letter XXII, p. 260.
57. Literature Online, Mary Robinson and the Gothic. Ed. Anne Close. November. 2004. U of Manchester. 18 October 2006
58. Todd, Part IV, p. 182.
59. Robinson, Thoughts on the Condition of Women, p. 23.
60. Robinson, Angelina, Vol II, Letter II, p. 22.
61. ibid, Vol III, Letter XXXVII, p. 340.
62. ibid, Vol III, Letter XXXVI, p. 329.
63. Craciun, p. 83.
64. Wollstonecraft, The Wrongs of Women, Vol II, Chapter 17, p. 196.
65. Todd, Part IV, p. 194.
66. Robinson, The Natural Daughter, Chapter 39, p. 243.
67. ibid, Chapter 39, p. 244.
68. Wollstonecraft, The Wrongs of Women, Chapter 4, Vol I, p. 101.
69. ibid, Vol I, Chapter 5, p. 115.
70. Robinson, The Natural Daughter, Chapter 33, p. 214
71. Kelly, Mary Wollstonecraft, Advertisement, p. 3.
72. Robinson, Angelina, Vol II, Letter IX, p. 125.
73. ibid, Vol II, Letter XVII, p. 270.
74. Wollstonecraft, The Wrongs of Women, Vol II, Chapter 16, p. 192.
75. Literature Online, Mary Robinson and the Gothic. Ed. Anne Close. November.
2004. U of Manchester. 18 October 2006
76. Todd, Part IV, p. 181.
77. Literature Online, Mary Robinson and the Gothic. Ed. Anne Close. November.
2004. U of Manchester. 18 October 2006
78. Todd, Part IV, p. 181.
79. Robinson, Thoughts on the Condition of Women, p. 7.
80. ibid, p. 7.
81. Robinson, Angelina, Vol III, Letter XXVII, p. 278.
82. Robinson, Thoughts on the Condition of Women, p. 2.
83. Kelly, Mary Wollstonecraft, Advertisement,p. 3.
84. Wollstonecraft, Mary, Chapter 27, p. 62.
85. ibid, Chapter 5, p. 15.
86. Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Women, Introduction, p. 85.
87. Robinson, Thoughts on the Condition of Women, p. 27.
88. Wollstonecraft, The Wrongs of Women, Vol I, Chapter 1, p. 80.
89. Robinson, Angelina, Vol II, Letter XVII, p. 226.
90. Robinson, The Natural Daughter, Chapter 7, p. 112.
91. Robinson, Thoughts on the Condition of Women, p. 4.
92. Robinson, The Natural Daughter, Chapter 53, p. 277.
93. Wollstonecraft, The Wrongs of Women, Vol II, Chapter 17, p. 195.
94. Pearson, Introduction, p. 13.
95. Craciun, p. 60.
Butler, M. Jane Austen and the War of Ideas, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1975.
Craciun, A. British Women Writers and the French Revolution, Citizens of the World, Hampshire, Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.
Favret, M. Romantic Correspondence, Women, Politics, and the Fiction of Letters, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1993.
Janowitz, A. Women Romantic Poets, Anne Barbauld and Mary Robinson, Devon, Northcote House Publishers Ltd, 2004.
Jones, V. Women and Literature in Britain 1700-1800, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2000.
Kelly, G. Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary and The Wrongs of Woman, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1980.
Pascoe, J, (ed.) Mary Robinson, Selected Poems, Canada, Broadview Press Ltd, 2000.
Pearson, J. Women’s Reading in Britain 1750-1835, A Dangerous Creation, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999.
Robertson, F. Women’s Writing 1778-1838 An Anthology, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2001.
Robinson, M. Angelina, a Novel in Three Volumes, New Bond Street, London, Hookham and Carpenter, 1796.
Robinson, M. (1799) “A Letter to the Women of England, on the injustice of Mental Subordination”, in S. Setzer (ed.) A Letter to the Women of England and The Natural Daughter, Mary Robinson, Canada, Broadview Press Ltd, 1985.
Robinson, M. (1799) “The Natural Daughter”, in S. Setzer (ed.) A Letter to the Women of England and the Natural Daughter, Mary Robinson, Canada, Broadview Press Ltd, 1985.
Todd, J. A Wollstonecraft Anthology, Oxford, Polity Press, 1989.
Wollstonecraft, M. (1788) “Mary, A Fiction”, in G. Kelly (ed.) Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary and The Wrongs of Women, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1976.
Wollstonecraft, M. (1792) “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman”, in J. Todd (ed.) A Wollstonecraft Anthology, Oxford, Polity Press, 1989.
Wollstonecraft, M. “The Wrongs of Women”, in G. Kelly (ed.) Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary and The Wrongs of Women, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1976.
Wu, D, (ed.) Romanticism, An Anthology, Third Edition, Malden, Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2006.
Corvey Women Writers on the Web. Ed. Dr Mary Peace. Sheffield Hallam University. 2 April 2007 <http://www2.shu.ac.uk/corvey/CW2/-19k>
Literature Online, Mary Robinson and the Gothic. Ed. Anne Close. November. 2004. U of Manchester. 18 October 2006 <http://gateway.proquest.com/openurl?ctx_ver=Z39.88- 2003&xri:pqil:res_ver=0.2&res_id=xri:lion&rft_id=xri:Lion:rec:mla:R03615>
IS 590: A Few Thoughts on Romance. Ed. September 2004. 3 April 2007.
Women Writers Online, Thoughts on the Condition of Women and on the Injustice of Mental Subordination, Second Edition, Mary Robinson. Ed. Paul Caton. Brown University. 5 October 2006 <http://textbase.wwp.brown.edu.icproxy.shu.ac.uk/WWO/php/wAll.php?doc=robinson.thoughts.html>
Blain, V. Clements, P. Grundy, I. The Feminist Companion to Literature in English, Avon, The Bath Press, 1990. (I read the section it had on Mary Robinson to help me with my biography of her)
Butler, M. Jane Austen and the War of Ideas, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1975. (I read this book to get a sense of what other writers were doing at the same time as Mary Robinson)
Byrne, P. Perdita, The Life of Mary Robinson, London, Harper Collins Publishers, 2004. (I read this book because it was the most recent biography done on Mary Robinson)
Craciun, A. British Women Writers and the French Revolution, Citizens of the World, Hampshire, Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. (I read this book to find critical quotes which I could put into my main dissertation to help me with my arguments)
Dabundo, L. Encyclopaedia of Romanticism, Culture in Britain, 1780's-1830's, London, Routledge, 1992. (I read the section they had on Mary Robinson for my biography of her)
Favret, M. Romantic Correspondence, Women, Politics, and the Fiction of Letters, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1993. (I read this book to develop my arguments for my critical dissertation)
Gristwood, S. Perdita, Royal mistress, Writer, Romantic, London, Transworld Publishers, 2005. (I read this book to help me understand the life of Mary Robinson)
Janowitz, A. Women Romantic Poets, Anne Barbauld and Mary Robinson, Devon, Northcote House Publishers Ltd, 2004. (I used this to get an overview of Mary's life and to view her in relation to other female writers of the era)
Jones, V. Women and Literature in Britain 1700-1800, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2000. (I read this to help me construct my arguments for my main dissertation essay)
Kelly, G. Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary and The Wrongs of Woman, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1976. (I read this so I could compare Wollstonecraft's work with Robinson's for my dissertation essay)
Levy, M.J. The Memoirs of Mary Robinson (1758-1800) Poet, novelist, feminist, first mistress of George IV, London,Peter Owen Publishers, 1994. (I read this to help me with my biography)
Murray, C. Encyclopaedia of the Romantic Era, 1760-1850, London, Fitzroy Dearborn, 2004. (I read this biography on Mary Robinson in order to help me with my own)
Pascoe, J, (ed.) Mary Robinson, Selected Poems, Canada, Broadview Press Ltd, 2000. (I used this book to get a feel for her poetry and it also had a useful introduction)
Pearson, J. Women’s Reading in Britain 1750-1835, A Dangerous Creation, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999. (I used this book to help me develop my arguments for my critical dissertation)
Robertson, F. Women’s Writing 1778-1838 An Anthology, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2001. (I read the section they had on Mary Robinson in order to help me with my own)
Robinson, M. Angelina, a Novel in Three Volumes, New Bond Street, London, Hookham and Carpenter, 1796.(I read this in order to write a plot synopsis for it and to use it in my critical dissertation)
Robinson, M. (1799) “A Letter to the Women of England, on the injustice of Mental Subordination”, in S. Setzer (ed.) A Letter to the Women of England and The Natural Daughter, Mary Robinson, Canada, Broadview Press Ltd, 1985. (I read this in order to get an insight into her political writing for my critical dissertation)
Robinson, M. (1799) “The Natural Daughter”, in S. Setzer (ed.) A Letter to the Women of England and the Natural Daughter, Mary Robinson, Canada, Broadview Press Ltd, 1985. (I read this in order to write a plot synopsis for it and to use it in my critical dissertation)
Setzer, S. A letter to the Women of England and The Natural Daughter, Mary Robinson, Canada, Broadview Press Ltd, 1985. (This book had one of Robinson's novels in it and her political pamphlet; it also held contemporary critical reviews which held me write a summary of the reception of The Natural Daughter)
Todd, J. A Dictionary of British and American Women Writers 1660-1800, London, Methuen & Co.Ltd, 1987. (I read the section they had on Mary Robinson in order to help me with my biography)
Todd, J. A Wollstonecraft Anthology, Oxford, Polity Press, 1989. (I used this to read Wollstonecraft's political paper on the rights of women)
Todd, J. Dictionary of British and Women Writers, London, Routledge, 1989. (This book had a short section on the life of Mary Robinson, which I used to help write my own biography on her)
Wollstonecraft, M. (1788) “Mary, A Fiction”, in G. Kelly (ed.) Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary and The Wrongs of Women, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1976. (I read this so I could compare Wollstonecraft's fictional works to Robinson's for my critical dissertation)
Wollstonecraft, M. (1792) “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman”, in J. Todd (ed.) A Wollstonecraft Anthology, Oxford, Polity Press, 1989. (I read Wollstonecraft's political paper so I could compare it with Robinson's for my dissertation essay)
Wollstonecraft, M. “The Wrongs of Women”, in G. Kelly (ed.) Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary and The Wrongs of Women, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1976. (I read this so I could compare Wollstonecraft's fictional works to Robinson's for my critical dissertation)
Wu D, (ed.) Romanticism, An Anthology, Third Edition, Malden, Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2006. (This had a useful introduction which I used to get an overview of the period)
<http://textbase.wwp.brown.edu.icproxy.shu.ac.uk/WWO/php/wAll.php?doc=robinson.thoughts.html> (I used this website so I could print off a hard copy of Robinson's political pamphlet)
Corvey Women Writers on the Web. Ed. Dr Mary Peace. Sheffield Hallam University. 2 November 2006 <http://www2.shu.ac.uk/corvey/CW2/-19k> (I used this to choose my author, read previous dissertations and to look at the contemporary critical reception of Robinson's novels)
Eighteenth-Century Collections Online Cited 16 November 2006
<er.library.northwestern.edu/detail.asp?id=310229-7k> (I used this to decide which novels of Robinson's I was going to read)
IS 590: A Few Thoughts on Romance. Ed. September 2004. Cited 3 April 2007
<http:// web.utk.edu/~wrobinso/590_lec_roman.html-34k> (I used this to look at the definition of a romance novel)
Literature Online, Mary Robinson and the Gothic. Ed. Anne Close. November. 2004. U of Manchester. 18 October 2006 <http://gateway.proquest.com/openurl?ctx_ver=Z39.88- 2003&xri:pqil:res_ver=0.2&res_id=xri:lion&rft_id=xri:Lion:rec:mla:R03615> (I used this essay to help me develop my arguments for my critical dissertation)
Litsearch Cited 18 October 2006
<litsearch.shu.ac.uk/v/HC2XGKTENA833HUX7V595HPJF1F59UAC739M44RUDQKGHX47ED-10195?RN=424844839&pds_handl-19k> (This has helped me to find critical essays written on Mary's novels, it has also allowed me to access relevant cites quickly)
MLA International Bibliography Cited 16 November 2006
<http://collections.chadwyck.co.uk/home/home_mla.jsp> (This has helped me to find articles and essays on Mary Robinson)
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Ed. Martin J. Levy. 2004. Oxford University Press. 16 November 2006
<http://via.oxforddnb.com/view/article/23857?docPos=3>. (I used this to help me with my biography of Mary Robinson)
The National Archives Cited 23 November 2006
<http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk> (I used this to search for Mary Robinson's will)
The National Portrait Gallery Cited 23 November 2006
<http://www.npg.org.uk/live/collect/asap> (I used this to search for a picture of Mary Robinson)
The Oxford Dictionary (OED), Oxford University Press. 2006. 16 November 2006 <www.oed.com>. (I used this to look up words that I did not recognise in Robinson's novels)
The Poetess Archive Cited 23 November 2006
<http://unixgen.muohio.edu/~poetess/> (I had a look for information on my chosen author but could not find any on this website)
The Voice of the Shuttle Cited 22 November 2006
<http://vos.ucsb.edu/browse.asp?id=3> (I found an essay on Mary Robinson at this website)
Women Writers Online, Thoughts on the Condition of Women and on the Injustice of Mental Subordination, Second Edition, Mary Robinson. Ed. Paul Caton. Brown University. Cited 5 October 2006
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