Mercy Otis Warren: Selected Letters

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This volume gathers more than one hundred letters-most of them previously unpublished-written by Mercy Otis Warren (1728-1814). Warren, whose works include a three-volume history of the American Revolution as well as plays and poems, was a major literary figure of her era and one of the most important American women writers of the eighteenth century. Her correspondents included Martha and George Washington, Abigail and John Adams, and Catharine Macaulay.

Until now, Warren's letters have been published sporadically, in small numbers, and mainly to help complete the collected correspondence of some of the famous men to whom she wrote. This volume addresses that imbalance by focusing on Warren's letters to her family members and other women. As they flesh out our view of Warren and correct some misconceptions about her, the letters offer a wealth of insights into eighteenth-century American culture, including social customs, women's concerns, political and economic conditions, medical issues, and attitudes on child rearing.

Letters Warren sent to other women who had lost family members (Warren herself lost three children) reveal her sympathies; letters to a favorite son, Winslow, show her sharing her ambitions with a child who resisted her advice. What readers of other Warren letters may have only sensed about her is now revealed more fully: she was a woman of considerable intellect, religious faith, compassion, literary intelligence, and acute sensitivity to the historical moment of even everyday events in the new American republic.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Warren's letters offer a rich source of information about many larger issues of the time, including the status of women, the nature and extent of kinship ties, and changing political conditions and economic circumstances in revolutionary Massachusetts. This edition represents a valuable resource not just for those who study Mercy Otis Warren but for all students of revolutionary America."--Rosemarie Zagarri, author of Revolutionary Backlash: Women and Politics in the Early American Republic

"This book will be attractive to scholars and non-scholars alike, as it allows readers a glimpse of the hopes, fears, beliefs, and the lived life of an extraordinary eighteenth-century American woman. It gives readers a lens through which they can gain an appreciation of the way that so many women of Warren's status survived the Revolutionary age. These are private letters, but they have a public face. Always politically engaged, Warren seldom failed to link her own concerns to the issues that faced the new nation."--Sheila L. Skemp, author of First Lady of Letters: Judith Sargent Murray and the Struggle for Female Independence

"One of the collection's charms is the wide span of Warren's recipients, ranging from family members, both well-known (James Otis Jr., James Warren) and not (her son Winslow), to obscure female friends (Sarah Hesilrige, Hannah Lincoln) and famous personalities such as Abigail and John Adams, Catharine Macaulay, and George Washington. The result is a useful window on many aspects of the 18th-century US."--Choice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780820326801
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press
  • Publication date: 2/15/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 1,280,194
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeffrey H. Richards is a professor of English at Old Dominion University and author of a literary biography of Mercy Otis Warren among other books. Sharon M. Harris is a professor of English at the University of Connecticut. The author or editor of numerous books, she is founder of the Society for the Study of American Women Writers.
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  • Posted March 30, 2009

    a woman's letters to relatives and friends during the formation of the United States

    Letters of Mercy Otis Warren (1728-1814) have been published elsewhere. However, these were limited mostly to her letters to important figures in American history such as Martha Washington and Abigail Adams. A few of these letters are published here. But the aim of letters of this volume is to make available Warren's equally informative letters to others during the momentous era including the Revolutionary War.

    The editors "focus on two groups of correspondents, women and family members." There are letters to over 19 women, plus ten letters to family members, most of these to her second son. The total of 106 letters reflect the relationships, thoughts, and values of a well-to-do woman in the Boston area during this formative period of the United States. The editors' introduction gives a biographical background of Warren and assesses her as a prime example of the place of the common practice of letter-writing in her time.

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