William Godwin's place in eighteenth century memoir writing: the example of the Memoirs of Mary Wollstonecraft


  • Eva María Pérez Rodríguez




Godwin, William, Memoirs of Mary Wollstonecraft, Literatura inglesa, Biografías, Memorias, Personajes históricos


Godwin's Memoirs of Mary Wollstonecraft are a mixture of innovation and tradition in eighteenth-century life writing. In his readings of Hume, Gibbon, Johnson or Boswell, he would have found a philosophical approach to biography similar to his own. This approach implied a condensation of universal characteristics in the delineation of one single character, and an inextinguishable defence of the formative nature of all literature, inclusive of biography. The fact that Wollstonecraft had provided a variety of what the times considered scandals is of no matter to Godwin. Her mind and acts were in his view a consequence of her social and personal contingency - a view anchored in Political Justice - and it all could teach an example. My article shows how Godwin drank in the biographical tradition of his day, but also how his distinctive Dissenting insistence on detail, and his reckless adherence to truth - also remnants from Political Justice - marked his Memoirs of Mary Wollstonecraft as typical in his canon. I point also at the author's struggle with style, as his new awareness of the importance of sentiment and conversation, which he had expressed in 'Of History and Romance', imply a revision of his old pompous diction. Although alert to these changes, Godwin is not always capable of the graceful transition needed for the Memoirs of Wollstonecraft.


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How to Cite

Pérez Rodríguez, Eva María. 2002. “William Godwin’s Place in Eighteenth Century Memoir Writing: The Example of the Memoirs of Mary Wollstonecraft”. Alicante Journal of English Studies / Revista Alicantina De Estudios Ingleses, no. 15 (November):195-205. https://doi.org/10.14198/raei.2002.15.13.