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Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin

January 12, 2010

Today I am working on the scene where Mary and Godwin meet at a dinner party for Thomas Paine in November, 1791. They hated each other instantly. Both were in the middle of writing their most famous books: Mary —A Vindication of the RIghts of Women, Godwin — An Enquiry concerning political justice. Mary could hardly contain her excitement at the conversation: liberty, revolution, the rights of men, the rights of women — all her favorite things. She interrupted everyone, cutting off people if they were slow or stupid. She and Paine agreed on every principle. Godwin, on the other hand, sulked, radiating sheer grumpiness, angry that Paine did not notice him, annoyed that Mary was talking so much. Later he described her as brash and aggressive. She thought he was prim and boring (which he was). She hoped they would never meet again. But only four years later, they fell in love and in 1797, Mary would give birth to Godwin’s famous daughter, Mary, the author of FRANKENSTEIN.
What I am noticing is how jealous Godwin was of Mary. Her book came out only two months after they met while he was still laboring in his study. He would not finish An Enquiry for more than a year. Meanwhile he had to listen to everyone talk about Mary, Mary, Mary. His resentment grew to dangerous levels, at least that is what I think right now.

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