Mary Robinson's A Letter to the Women of England (1799) is a radical response to the rampant anti-feminist sentiment of the late 1790s. In this work, Robinson encourages her female contemporaries to throw off the "glittering shackles" of custom and to claim their rightful places as the social and intellectual equals of men.
Separately published in the same year, Robinson's novel The Natural Daughter follows the story of Martha Morley, who defies her husband's authority, adopts a found infant, is barred from her husband's estate and is driven to seek work as an actress and author. The novel implicitly links and critiques domestic tyrants in England and Jacobin tyrants in France.
This edition also includes: other writings by Mary Robinson (tributes, and an excerpt from The Progress of Liberty); writings by contemporaries on women, society, and revolution; and contemporary reviews of both works.
"This intelligent pairing of Mary Robinson's two last finished works, supplemented with wonderful notes and appendices, reminds us of how her insistently radical politics drive her satiric fiction. It also makes a persuasive case for her significance in the wild career of the novel in this period. At turns outrageous, witty, and sentimental, Robinson is at the top of her powers here."
Moira Ferguson University of Missouri
"This edition, with Sharon M. Setzer's insightful introduction, chronology, and several bold and relevant appendicies, situates Mary Robinson's writings informatively for scholarly and general audiences alike."
Mary Robinson: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Texts
A Letter to the Women of England
The Natural Daughter
Appendix A: Robinson's Tributes to the Duchess of Devonshire
From The Memoirs of Mrs. Robinson (1801)
"Sonnet Inscribed to Her Grace the Duchess of Devonshire" (1791)
"On the Duchess of Devonshire" (1799)
Appendix B: Excerpts from The Morning Post
A Puff for Robinson's The False Friend (1799)
An Account of Charles-Guillaume Theremin's Pamphlet De la condition des femmes dans les Républiques (1799)
A Puff for Robinson's Thoughts on the Condition of Women (1799)
Appendix C: Richard Polwhele, from The Unsex'd Females (1798)
Appendix D: Priscilla Wakefield, from Reflections on the Present Condition of the Female Sex (1798)
Appendix E: Mary Robinson, from The Progress of Liberty (1801)
Appendix F: Helen Maria Williams, from Letters from France (1795-96)
Appendix G: Contemporary reviews of A Letter to the Women of England
From The Anti-Jacobin Review and Magazine (1799)
From The British Critic (1799)
From The Gentleman's Magazine (1799)
From The New Annual Register (1799)
Appendix H: Contemporary Reviews of The Natural Daughter
From The British Critic (1800)
From The Critical Review (1800)
From The European Magazine (1800)
From The Monthly Magazine (1800)
From The Monthly Review (1800)
From The New London Review (1799)