Introduction and Note on the Texts
This hypertext is a diplomatic facsimile of the first edition of Mary Robinson's Letter to the Women of England on the Injustice of Mental Subordination, published in February 1799 by Longman and Rees, signed "Anne Frances Randall." Our copy text is the first edition of the Letter in the British Library (C142b13), and we are grateful to the British Library for permission to use their text in our new edition. This edition includes both Robinson's own footnotes, indicated by an asterisk [*] hyperlinked to the text of her note (with the page number on which her note originally appeared) as well as editorial footnotes we have added, indicated by hyperlinked words in the text itself. We have reproduced Robinson's capitalization, spelling, and punctuation exactly, both in her Letter and in the poems included in this hypertext. A probable typographical error in one of Robinson's lengthy quotations has been corrected with a note indicating this.
Robinson printed a second edition of her Letter in December of 1799, also with Longman and Rees. The second edition bears a different title, Thoughts on the Condition of Women, and on the Injustice of Mental Subordination, by Mary Robinson. Second Edition. With the exception of the new title page and Advertisement [n.p.], the body of this second edition is identical to the first, in terms of linguistic content, collation, pagination, typography, for both the body of the Letter and the "List of British Female Literary Characters." Thus this second edition is probably not a new edition at all, but a reissue with new Advertisement and title, published under Robinson's own name.
The "List of British Female Literary Characters." is Robinson's own, and included many prominent Bluestockings, such as Elizabeth Carter, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Elizabeth Montague, Hannah More, and Hester Lynch Piozzi; this List thus reflects Robinson's early education in Hannah More's academy, and places Robinson firmly in this female intellectual tradition, as well as alongside the better-known later feminists Wollstonecraft and Hays. Robinson's List also includes many well-known novelists of the Romantic period, such as Fanny Burney (Madame D'Arblay), Ann Radcliffe, Charlotte Smith, Ann Plumptre, Mrs. West and Elizabeth Inchbald, in addition to Robinson herself. Presumably she included her own name in the List in part in order to avoid being identified as the real author behind Anne Frances Randall, but also undoubtedly because she wanted, and rightly so, to place herself among such formidable company. Robinson's List thus establishes important connections between the earlier Bluestockings and canonical Romantic-period writers, and attests to her own versatility as poet, novelist, and here, feminist polemicist.
In Elizabeth Rose's personal copy of the Letter to the Women of England (now the British Library's copy and our copy text), she continued to add names and titles to Robinson's List, providing a rare record of one woman's reading of, perhaps even her thinking on, women writers in 1799. Rose's inscription on the half-title page-- El. Rose/ Kilravock Castle/1799-- indicates that she was a member of the powerful Clan Rose, who inhabited the site of Kilravock Castle (built in 1460) in Nairnshire, Scotland, from the thirteenth century to the present. Rose's additions tell us that Robinson's Letter was read with enough approval and interest by this aristocratic woman to continue Robinson's project of maintaining a record of British women's intellectual achievements. Because one of Rose's additions to the List is "Randall," the pseudonymous author of the Letter, we can assume that Rose did not know the author's true identity. Elizabeth Rose's additions are indicated in our edition in coral-colored text enclosed in brackets.
Additional Texts Incorporated in this Hypertext
This hypertext edition incorporates an important long poem by Mary Robinson, Ainsi va le Monde, both from a 1790 edition and from the significantly revised 1806 Poetical Works edition published by her daughter, Mary Elizabeth Robinson. The 1806 edition omits reference to Merry in the poem's subtitle, and adds the disclaimer "Written at the beginning of the French Revolution" in order to distance Robinson from the radical politics of Merry and the revolution, politics which she herself had embraced in her lifetime, particularly in such texts as the Letter to the Women of England, her novel Walsingham, and political poems such as Ainsi va le Monde and The Progress of Liberty. Robinson's poem celebrates the French Revolution, as well as the works of Robinson's friend Robert Merry, whose poem The Laurel of Liberty is the immediate occasion for Robinson's Ainsi va le Monde. For more detailed textual notes on these Robinson poems and all other primary material included in this hypertext, see the editorial note included on each text's page.
We have included one review of Letter to the Women of England, as well as three reviews of other works by Robinson, believed to be written by Mary Wollstonecraft. These (probable) reviews by Wollstonecraft are intended to help reconstruct the critical dialogue between Robinson and her better-known friend and fellow feminist.
This hypertext edition also includes three letters: one from Robinson to William Godwin, one from Mary Wollstonecraft to Robinson, and one from Robinson to Samuel Pratt. Reference to the quotations from the latter two letters are given with the permission of The Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation, Inc. The letter from Wollstonecraft to Robinson reveals much about Wollstonecraft's desire to balance the "womanish mother" and the "philosopher." Robinson's letter to William Godwin (quoted from Kegan Paul's William Godwin: His Friends and Contemporaries) likewise places Robinson firmly in this circle of radical thinkers, and her eloquent anger in this personal letter echoes that of her public address, Letter to the Women of England. We have included Robinson's letter to Samuel Jackson Pratt because it evokes the atmosphere of Robinson's literary circle near the end of her life, when Letter to the Women of England was written. For detailed provenance information and permissions for these letters, see the editorial note accompanying each additional text in our edition.
For ongoing support and expert advice we would like to thank our colleague Steven Jones, and Bob Kraft and John Bigane in Information Technology at Loyola. We are also grateful to Judith Reymond at Loyola University's Center for Instructional Design for encoding the text of the Letter in HTML, and to Mike Duvall of the University of Maryland for accurately and quickly converting our html into a frames version. For their help in securing permissions, we are grateful to Alan Marshall of the British Library and Doucet Devin Fischer of the Shelley Circle. Judith Pascoe gave us helpful leads on tracking down Robinson's letters and for this we thank her.