I am coughing as I write about the tubercular Fanny Blood, Mary Wollstonecraft’s “perfect” friend. It’s a strange kind of mimesis. I don’t like being sick, but I like picturing their first meeting. Fanny is eighteen. Mary is sixteen. Mary’s completely smitten by the older girl. “I could dwell forever on Fanny’s praises,” she writes. Fanny can play the piano! She can draw! She is pretty and delicate and so gentle with her younger brothers and sisters! Mary wants to run away with Fanny. It is love at first sight. Who cares if Fanny’s engaged. Mary’s certain that Fanny will see that life with Mary is far preferable to life with her lukewarm fiancee. Of course, that is not what happens. And Fanny will die as a result of the silly choice she makes. Alas.
After years of reading 18th century novels, it’s a pleasure to write about this time. So much easier than the biblical landscape. I have been steeped in this material most of my reading life. The female “romantic friendship.” Male suiters. Independent women finding a way to succeed in the midst of societal restrictions. All my favorite things.