Sunday, September 25, 2011

Mother and daughter

Two mentions of Mary Wollstonecraft in today's Observer: an interview with Claire Tomalin, author of The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft (1974), and a piece by Mark Kermode, a regular (resident?) Guardian/Observer film writer. Rachel Cooke does a good job with her life-spanning interview, in which Tomalin's life-changing book gets a mention:
...with her new baby in a basket beside her, she began work on her first biography, a life of Mary Wollstonecraft. She started to feel a little happier. [...] She was by now in her 40s, the period she thinks of as her youth: liberated and busy. The Mary Wollstonecraft book came out and was a huge success, so in 1977, she left the Statesman, thinking she would be a full-time writer.
Cooke asks if "work was a balm", and Tomalin responds, "Yes, absolutely. That's what I do. If I'm upset about something, I go into my study and I work." A room of one's own....

Kermode, however well he knows his cinematography, and despite being billed elsewhere as a feminist, misses a vital historical detail: he commits the all too frequent error of mistaking daughter for mother:
Those of us who had the gall to praise Frankenstein for its gloriously overcooked melodramatic aesthetic (a quality entirely in keeping with Mary Wollstonecraft's source novel) were laughed out of court by those toeing the consensus line. 
Perhaps it was merely a slip; perhaps it can be blamed on an anonymous sub-editor. But this renews my determination to establish Mary Wollstonecraft more firmly in the public imagination.

(Is it overkill to post twice in a day? The previous item was queued; this one's spontaneous.)

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