“THE FEMALE RIGHT TO LITERATURE”
EDGEWORTH, Maria. Letters for Literary Ladies. To which is added, an Essay on the Noble Science of Self-justification. London: Printed for J. Johnson. 1799. Second edition. Octavo. pp. v, , 240. Original grey papered boards, some wear to paper at head and foot of spine (binding sound), light wear to extremities. Nineteenth century bookplate of United Presbyterian College, Brown-Lindsay Library (dispersed). Uncut. A very good copy.
ESTC lists 5 copies only (Cork University; Bodleian Oxford; Trinity College; Harvard; UCLA) of this variant (which identifies Edgeworth’s authorship on the title page).The other variant of the second edition (with author’s name not noted on title page) is similarly rare.
Maria Edgeworth (1767-1849), novelist, children’s writer and educationalist, was born at Black Bourton near Reading, and educated in England. She returned to Ireland with her father, Richard Lovell Edgeworth, in 1782, and taught the children of his later marriages, sharing his progressive views on education. Her early works included The Parent’s Assistant (1796) and Practical Education (1798). During the 1798 rebellion Edgeworthstown was spared by the insurgents because of the family’s standing with its tenants. In 1800, Maria, published Castle Rackrent, the earliest regional novel in English, which made her internationally famous.
Her work earned the admiration of Sir Walter Scott who acknowledged his debt to her in the general preface to the Waverley Novels. She edited and completed her father’s Memoirs in 1820. In later years she was largely occupied with rectifying her brother’s mismanagement of the Edgeworthstown estate, and in relieving victims of the Famine. Aid came from her admirers around the world (from Boston came 150 barrels of flour addressed simply to ‘Miss Edgeworth, for her poor’). Her last work Orlandino (1848) was written for the Poor Relief Fund.
The rare second edition, “corrected and much enlarged,” of the first-published work of the novelist and educational theorist Maria Edgeworth (1768-1849).Written in support of the education of women and the place of women in literary endeavour, the book is thought to have been conceived as a retort to the views of her father’s friend Thomas Day (1748-1789) to the contrary. Edgeworth explains in the preface dated 1 September 1798 her reasons for enlarging and making changes to the work: “in the first edition the second letter upon the advantages of cultivating the female understanding, was thought to weaken the cause it was intended to support. –That letter has been written over again; no pains have been spared to improve it, and to assert more distinctly the female right to literature.”