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Jane Austen and Mary Wollstonecraft

April 27, 2017

On Mary Wollstonecraft’s Birthday…





Jane  Austen never met Mary Wollstonecraft.  No, no, and thrice no.  Jane Austen would never have hung out with Wollstonecraft’s crowd.  There is no imaginable context for imagining a teenage Austen sat round the table at Joseph Johnson’s house, chewing the fat with Wollstonecraft, Paine, Godwin, Tooke etc. etc. etc.

Yet Pride and Prejudice can be read as an extended illustrative footnote to Vindication of the Rights of Woman.

The presumed reader of The Vindication is male.  The liberation of the female intellect is, for Wollstonecraft a rising tide that lifts all boats and men stand to gain as much as women if the neglected half of the human race is provided with a rational education.  As Wollstonecraft sees it, men marry women for their looks and then find themselves shackled to a mate with whom they have fundamentally nothing in common.  If men and women received the same…

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