WOLLSTONECRAFT, Mary (1759-1797). A Vindication of the Rights of Woman with strictures on political and moral subjects. London: for J. Johnson, 1792.
8 (230 x 120mm.) (Browning and spotting, heavy in places and particularly affecting the margins of title and preliminaries, tiny blue ink stain to 2A6 recto, last few leaves dampstained.) Contemporary sheep with black morocco lettering-piece (rubbed and slightly bowed), modern half calf box. Provenance: D. H. Gordon (19th-century booklabel); Mrs. Douglas H. Knox, Fredericksburg, 1913 (ownership inscription on front pastedown, with further inscription dated 1914).
FIRST EDITION. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman was written rapidly in the autumn of 1791 when Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft's future husband, had just started work on Political Justice, and Paine himself was absorbed in writing the second part of the Rights of Man. She dedicated the work to Talleyrand, and critical reaction to its feminist manifesto was very much dependant on prevailing views of the French Revolution. "A hyena in petticoats" was Horace Walpole's description of the author, while Hannah More found the very title so ridiculous that she publicly expressed her intention never to read it. Perhaps notoriety was not altogether unhelpful for sales, as Joseph Johnson printed a second edition later in 1792 while radical optimism over the French Revolution remained unclouded. Although Wollstonecraft's writing did lack method, and the clarity of Condorcet who had already tackled the issue of women's rights in France, The Rights of Women was written with the pithy phraseology characteristic of Paine, and with an even greater sense of moral outrage. Godwin, as his wife's first biographer, admitted it was "a very unequal performance, and eminently deficient in method and arrangement," yet expressed his conviction that "when we consider the importance of its doctrines, and the eminence of genius it displays, it seems not very improbable that it will be read as long as the English language endures" (Memoirs of Mary Wollstonecraft, 1927, p. 56). Windle Mary Wollstoncecraft 4; PMM 242.