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A Short Residence in Sweden & Memoirs of the Author of 'The Rights of Woman': AND Memoirs of the Author of 'The Rights of Woman' (Classics) Paperback – 30 Apr 1987
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The reader is struck by the mysterious, melancholy tenor throughout the letters. Wollstonecraft never explicitly speaks of the motive for her travel, nor the ship for which she is looking. This provides an unseen tension throughout the letters, and one must turn to Godwin's memoirs of her to find out why she took it upon herself to travel the unknown lands of Scandinavia with only a handmaid to assist her with her young daughter.
We learn, from Godwin, that Wollstonecraft's travel cones between two suicide attempts. Following her time in France during the French Revolution, she met an American traveller, Gilbert Imlay, with whom she had her first daughter. Following the couple's return to London, the relationship began to break down and Gilbert thought it a healthy distraction to send Wollstonecraft to Scandinavia to find his business partner, Elias Blackman, and the pirate ship no less, which had been stolen from them.
Although extremely controversial on its release following Wollstonecraft's death shortly after the birth of her daughter, Mary Shelley, Godwin's Memoirs answer many of the questions raised in her 'Short Residence in Sweden,' and document the tumultuous life of a great woman - proto-feminist, proto-Romantic, and generally, a woman ahead of her time.
Wolstonecraft was only 38 when she died, and to my mind, remains one of the most neglected writers of the time. The second part of the book, is written by her husband Godwin. It is a biography of his wife, and is stimulating and moving. Wolstonecraft and Godwin campaigned for a freer and more just society and this book will bring the era alive in glowing colours. Her better known work, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, is also highly recommended.
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