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January 11, 2010

I’ve discovered that Mary Wollstonecraft says she wrote The Vindication of the Right of Women as a self-portrait. But what kind of portrait is this — at least, this is what I was asking myself today. There is not one “personal” detail in the vindication. She does not tell us about her cruel drunken father or her stupid romance reading mother. There’s no date of birth. No sufferings of the Wollstonecraft sisters and no oppressive big brother. Instead, there’s ideas and her feelings about these ideas. So, in MW’s mind, to know her is to know her ideas (not the details of her love affairs). But as a gossipy sort of writer, I Want to know about her affairs. And what she wore, too. But I can feel one of those windows opening, the kind that help me see into the 18th century and MW herself. To MW, it’s ideas that are self-revelatory. It’s ideas that are the most personal thing.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Ruth permalink
    January 12, 2010 9:45 am

    And might I say that there are quite a number of more modern autobiographies that should be more about ideas and way less about love affairs and gossip. However, I too would love to know more about her day to day life. Perhaps it was too too grim and the world of ideas is what she considered her “real” life.

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