Sunday, September 12, 2010

Mary, Mary, quite contrary

Once upon a time there was a little girl called Mary. When she was growing up, she used to sleep on the landing, to stop her drunken father getting in to her mother’s bedroom. He gambled away most of the family’s money; there was just enough to educate Mary’s elder brother, but nothing left for her. Besides, she was female, and what was the point of teaching her more than what she needed to find a husband?

Fortunately, she fell in love with a girl whose family had a good library, and started to educate herself. When she had read enough books, she decided to write some. She fell in love a few more times. When one of those affairs went wrong, she went to Paris to see the French Revolution, which led to more love, and more writing, and more heartbreak, and a baby too. She went to Yorkshire and Lisbon and Scandinavia, and hung out in London with abolitionists, Dissenters, and Americans. Her books remain in print; she is credited as a foremother of feminism, influenced the birth of Romanticism, and still contributes to republican thought. She lived a life of highs and lows, and there is a lot to learn from her. Mary, Mary, quite contrary.

1 comment:

  1. "a war correspondent, a pedagogue, a spiritual quester, a radical republican, a single mother, a passionate & taboo-breaking lover"...all this by the age of 38! inspiring indeed.