Posts Tagged ‘Harriet Martineau’

Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Anne Marsh-Caldwell
1791 – 5 October 1874


Anne Marsh-Caldwell

Anne Marsh-Caldwell was the third daughter and fourth child of James Caldwell, J.P., of Linley Wood, Staffordshire, who was recorder of Newcastle-under-Lyme, and deputy-lieutenant of the county; her mother was Elizabeth, daughter and coheiress of Thomas Stamford of Derby. In July 1817 she married Arthur Cuthbert Marsh, latterly of Eastbury Lodge, Hertfordshire.

Arthur Cuthbert Marsh (died 23 December 1849) was son of William Marsh, senior and sleeping partner in the London banking firm of Marsh, Stacey, & Graham, ruined in 1824 by Henry Fauntleroy, a junior partner. There were seven children of the marriage. On the death of her brother, James Stamford Caldwell, in 1858, Anne Marsh succeeded to the estate of Linley Wood, and resumed by royal licence the surname of Caldwell in addition to that of Marsh. She died at Linley Wood, 5 October 1874.

Anne Marsh was one of the most popular British novelists, for nearly a quarter of a century. Her first book, Two Old Men’s Tales, was made up of two stories, The Deformed and The Admiral’s Daughter. It was published at the suggestion of Harriet Martineau. Recognised as didactic in character, her books were published anonymously and mainly describe life in the upper middle class and the lower ranks of the aristocracy. They include the following:

  • Two Old Men’s Tales, 1834.
  • Tales of the Woods and Fields, 1838.
  • Triumphs of Time, 1844.
  • Aubrey, 1845.
  • Mount Sorel, 1845.
  • Father Darcy, an Historical Romance, 1846.
  • Emilia Wyndham, 1846,
  • Norman’s Bridge, or the Modern Midas, 1847.
  • Angela, or the Captain’s Daughter, 1848.
  • The Previsions of Lady Evelyn.
  • Mordaunt Hall, 1849.
  • The Wilmingtons, 1849.
  • Lettice Arnold, 1850.
  • Time the Avenger, 1851.
  • Ravenscliffe, 1851.
  • Castle Avon, 1852.
  • The Heiress of Haughton, 1856.
  • Evelyn Marston, 1856.
  • The Rose of Ashurst, 1867.

Many of these works passed through several editions. A collection of them, in 15 volumes, was published in Thomas Hodgson’s Parlour Library, 1857. Marsh wrote also The Protestant Reformation in France and the Huguenots (1847), and a translation of the Song of Roland, as chanted before the Battle of Hastings by the minstrel Taillefer (1854).

Marsh has been wrongly credited with novels written by Julia Cecilia Stretton (1812–1878), such as Margaret and her Bridesmaids.

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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Simon Wilkin
27 July 1790 –1862

Simon Wilkin was the second of the three children of William Wilkin Wilkin, a Norfolk gristmiller, and Cecilia Lucy Wilkin, daughter of William Jacomb of London. When his father died Wilkin moved to Norwich to live with his guardian, Joseph Kinghorn, who educated him. He was a close friend of John Curtis, William Kirby, John Burrell and William Spence who shared his interest in entomology.

Wilkin lost his inherited wealth in 1811 when the paper mill in which he was a partner failed, and in 1832 his guardian’s death was another financial disaster. Bankruptcy forced the sale of his insect collection to the Zoological Society of London. He was then able to establish a printing and publishing business in Norwich. He published the work of Harriet Martineau, Amelia Opie, George Borrow, and William Taylor. In 1825 he married Emma, daughter of John Culley of Costessey, and they had two daughters and a son and in 1834 they moved to London.

Wilkin compiled an edition of Sir Thomas Browne (1836) for which he researched Browne’s correspondence in the British Museum and Bodleian Library.

He was a Fellow of the Linnean Society, and a member of the Wernerian Society of Edinburgh

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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Mary Anne Jevons
5 August 1795–13 November 1845

Mary Anne Jevons née Roscoe was born into a Unitarian family at Liverpool on 5 August 1795, the eldest daughter of William Roscoe and Jane Griffies. She was close to her father in her youth, and inherited a good deal of his poetic talent. She contributed to Poems for Youth, by a Family Circle, and wrote Poems by one of the Authors of “Poems for Youth,” &c.,

She married Thomas Jevons, an ironmaster, on 23 November 1825. Among their eleven children, several of whom died young, was the economist William Stanley Jevons.

From 1831 to 1838 she edited The Sacred Offering, a Poetical Annual. As well as members of the Roscoe family, contributors included Anna Letitia Barbauld, Mary Anne Brown, Harriet Martineau, and Lydia Sigourney. Her own contributions were in 1845 collected under the title of Sonnets and other Poems, chiefly Devotional.

In person, according to her DNB biographer, Jevons was “remarkably handsome, with very fascinating manners”. She died at 37 Alfred Place, Bloomsbury on 13 November 1845.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

William Taylor of Norwich
7 November 1765 – 5 March 1836


William Taylor

William Taylor of Norwich was the only child of William Taylor, a wealthy Norwich merchant with European trade connections, by his wife Sarah , second daughter of John Wright of Diss, Norfolk. William Taylor was taught Latin, French and Dutch by John Bruckner, pastor of the French and Dutch Protestant churches in Norwich, in preparation for continuing his father’s continental trading in textiles. In 1774 he was transferred to Palgrave Academy, Suffolk, by Rochemont Barbauld, whose wife Anna Letitia Barbauld Taylor regarded as a strong influence. For three years his school companion was Frank Sayers, who was to be a lifelong friend.

In August 1779 his father took him from school. During the next three years he spent much of his time abroad. Firstly he visited the Netherlands, France, and Italy, learning languages and business methods. In 1781, he left home again, and spent a year in Detmold, staying with an Alsatian Protestant pastor called Roederer, and absorbing German literature under the influence of Lorenz Benzler. Roederer gave him introductions to August Ludwig von Schlözer the historian at Göttingen, and to Goethe at Weimar. After further German travels he returned to Norwich on 17 November 1782.

Taylor was a Unitarian who attended the Octagon Chapel, Norwich. He became the central of Norwich’s literary circles, and a political radical who applauded the French Revolution. He argued for universal suffrage and the end of all governmental intervention in the affairs of religion. He wrote the 18th century tradition of liberal and latitudinarian criticism of the Bible (which Sayers thought heretical, at least in part). In the period 1793 to 1799 he wrote over 200 reviews in periodicals, following his concept of “philosophical criticism”.

From 1783 Taylor was engaged in his father’s business. In May and June 1784 he was in Scotland with Sayers, who had begun medical studies at Edinburgh; there he met James Mackintosh. A second journey to Edinburgh in 1788 followed a breakdown in Sayers’ health.

In November 1789 Taylor’s father was made secretary of a Revolution Society in Norwich, formed to commemorate the Glorious Revolution of 1688. In May 1790 Taylor made a visit to France, and spent time at the National Assembly. He returned somewhat sceptical whether its members’ rhetoric matched their intentions, but translated a number of its decrees for the Revolution Society. Before the end of 1790 two new clubs were formed in Norwich, of which Taylor became a member, the “Tusculan School” for political discussion, and the Speculative Society, founded by William Enfield for philosophical debate. Taylor became a leader of the Speculative Club. It lasted to 1797, dissolving after Enfield died.

Around this point in time, Taylor persuaded his father to retire on his fortune. The firm was dissolved in 1791; his father employed part of his capital in underwriting, not very successfully. Taylor resisted his father’s wish to put him into a London bank. William Taylor senior gave up his position as secretary to the Revolution Society by early 1792. In May 1794 government repression of radicals meant the Norwich Revolution Society closed down officially; and Taylor added “junior” to its written records, wherever his father’s name appeared.

In late 1794 a Norwich periodical, The Cabinet, was set up, publishing articles taking an anti-government view. It was supposed to be the work of a “Society of Gentlemen”, the group behind it being closely related to the Tusculan School, which dissolved or went underground in mid-1794: it was edited by Charles Marsh, and Taylor contributed, along with other like-minded young radicals, such as Thomas Starling Norgate and Amelia Alderson. They had tacit support from older citizens, including Enfield and Edward Rigby. It appeared for a year from September 1794, proposing in fact a tame and moderate intellectual line.

Taylor was nicknamed godless Billy for his radical views. He was a heavy drinker, of whom his contemporary Harriet Martineau said:
his habits of intemperance kept him out of the sight of ladies, and he got round him a set of ignorant and conceited young men, who thought they could set the whole world right by their destructive propensities.

Taylor’s friendship with Robert Southey began early in 1798, when Southey, having placed his brother Henry Herbert Southey with George Burnett at Great Yarmouth, visited Norwich as Taylor’s guest; Southey revisited him at Norwich in February 1802. Much of their correspondence to 1821 is given by John Warden Robberds in his Memoir of Taylor; it is frank on both sides.

In 1802, during the Peace of Amiens, Taylor embarked on another tour of Europe, visiting France, Italy and German, partly on business; Henry Southey joined him at Paris. He stayed with Lafayette at Lagrange, where he met Frances d’Arblay. In Paris he met Thomas Holcroft, Thomas Paine, and Thomas Manning.

From 1811 American and other business losses made money tight. Taylor applied in 1812, at Southey’s suggestion, for the post of keeper of manuscripts in the British Museum, on the resignation of Francis Douce; but the vacancy was already filled.

Unmarried, Taylor lived with his parents. He had a daily routine of studying in the morning, walking in the afternoon followed by bathing in the River Wensum, from a bath house upstream from the city and its pollution. In the evening he liked to socialise, drink (heavily) and discuss linguistics, literature and philosophy in society.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Joanna Baillie
11 September 1762 – 23 February 1851


Joanna Baillie

Joanna Bailliewas born in 1762. Her father, Rev. James Baillie (c.1722–1778), was a Presbyterian minister and briefly, during the two years before his death, a Professor of Divinity at the University of Glasgow. Her mother Dorothea Hunter (c.1721–1806) was a sister of the great physicians and anatomists, William and John Hunter. The Baillies were an old Scottish family, and claimed among their ancestors the Scottish patriot Sir William Wallace.

Joanna Baillie was the youngest of three children; she had had a twin sister, but this child had died unnamed a few hours after her birth. Baillie grew up in close companionship with her sister, Agnes (1760–1861), and brother, Matthew Baillie (1761–1823), who became a celebrated London physician.

Baillie’s early years were marked by a passion for the outdoors. Uninterested in books, she preferred playing in the garden, riding her pony, splashing on the banks of the River Clyde, and listening to ghost stories by the fireside. Baillie’s own gift for narrative invention revealed itself early in stories told to her companions or acted out in impromptu amateur dramatics.

In 1769 the Baillies moved from Bothwell to Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, where Rev. Baillie had been appointed to the collegiate church. A few years later, at the age of ten, Joanna Baillie was sent to Glasgow to attend a boarding-school known for “transforming healthy little hoydens into perfect little ladies” (Carswell 266). Her intellectual and artistic faculties were here stimulated, and she displayed a talent for drawing, considerable musical ability, and a love of mathematics. Above all, however, was her facility in the writing and acting of plays. It was in Glasgow that she visited the theatre for the first time, kindling a passion which was to continue for the rest of her life.

With the death of their father in 1778, the Baillie family found themselves with little to live on. Matthew Baillie went to Balliol College, Oxford, following in his uncles’ footsteps in the study of medicine. Mrs. Baillie and her daughters retired to Long Calderwood, her family home near East Kilbride, where they led quiet lives as country gentlewomen.

Dr. William Hunter of Windmill Street, London, died in 1783, leaving Matthew Baillie his house and private museum collection (which is now the University of Glasgow’s Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery). The following year Joanna, Agnes, and their mother moved to London to keep house for Matthew. There Joanna Baillie had access to literary society through her aunt Anne Hunter, the wife of Dr. John Hunter. Anne Hunter was a poet of some renown and the hostess of a salon, which included among its circle Fanny Burney, Elizabeth Carter, and Elizabeth Montagu. Encouraged by her aunt’s example, Baillie began to write poetry. While at Windmill Street, Baillie also began seriously writing drama. She had a ready supply of books and studied the French authors Corneille, Racine, Molière, and Voltaire, as well as Shakespeare and the older English dramatists.

In 1791, Matthew Baillie married Sophia Denman, the daughter of a leading obstetrician, and relocated to the more fashionable Grosvenor Street. Mrs. Baillie and her daughters settled, after two or three moves, in Colchester. There, Joanna Baillie conceived the idea of her great work, the Plays on the Passions.

By 1802 Joanna Baillie had moved from Colchester to Hampstead, then on the outskirts of London, where she and her sister passed the remainder of their lives. In 1806 Mrs. Baillie died. The two sisters, having inherited a small competence from their uncle Dr. William Hunter, chose not to marry. They were on intimate terms of friendship with many eminent figures in the arts and sciences, and were sociable, hospitable, and much admired and visited. Anna Laetitia Barbauld and Lucy Aikin were neighbours and close friends, and Sir Walter Scott was a regular correspondent with whom Joanna Baillie stayed in Scotland and who visited her whenever he was in London.

In 1823, Baillie’s much-loved brother Matthew died. His children and grandchildren continued to display the affection and pride in their aunt’s achievements which had always marked the family. As she reached her seventies, Baillie experienced a yearlong period of unusual ill health which left her too weak to keep up her correspondence. However, she recovered and returned to her work.

Joanna Baillie was anxious that all her works with the exception of her theological pamphlet be collected in a single volume, and had the satisfaction of seeing this ‘great monster book’ as she called it, which appeared in 1851, shortly before she died. Though no longer robust—‘Ladies of four score and upwards cannot expect to be robust, and need not be gay. We sit by the fireside with our books’ (Carhart, 62)—she had remained in good health until the end. She died in 1851 in Hampstead, having almost reached her ninetieth year. Her sister, Agnes, lived on to be 100. Both sisters were buried alongside their mother in Hampstead parish churchyard, and in 1899 a sixteen-foot-high memorial was erected in Joanna Baillie’s memory in the churchyard of her birthplace at Bothwell.

In an 1804 prefatory address to the reader, Baillie defended her plays as acting plays. The criticism that she had no understanding of practical stagecraft and that her plays were torpid and dull in performance rankled throughout her life, and she was always delighted to hear of a production being mounted, no matter how humble it might be. She believed that critics had unfairly labelled her work as Closet drama, partly because she was a woman and partly because they had failed to read her prefaces with care. She pointed also to the conventions of the theatre in her time, when lavish spectacle on huge stages was the order of the day. Her own plays, with their attention to psychological detail, worked best, she argued, in well-lit small theatres where facial expressions could clearly be seen.

Growing up as a Presbyterian minister’s daughter, religion had always been important to Baillie. In 1826 she published The Martyr, a tragedy on religion, intended for reading only; and in 1831 she entered publicly into theological debate with a pamphlet, A view of the general tenour of the New Testament regarding the nature and dignity of Jesus Christ, in which she analysed the doctrines of the Trinitarian Order, Arianism, and Socinianism.

Financially secure herself, Joanna Baillie customarily gave half her earnings from her writings to charity, and engaged in many philanthropic activities. In the early 1820s she corresponded with the Sheffield campaigner James Montgomery in support of his efforts on behalf of chimney sweeps. She declined to send a poem, fearing that was ‘just the very way to have the whole matter considered by the sober pot-boilers over the whole kingdom as a fanciful and visionary thing’ whereas ‘a plain statement of their miserable lot in prose, accompanied with a simple, reasonable plan for sweeping chimneys without them’ was far better strategically (letter, 5 Feb 1824).

Where literary matters were concerned, Joanna Baillie had a shrewd understanding of publishing as a trade marked by gender and class distinctions and driven by profit. Baillie took seriously the power her eminence gave her, and authors down on their luck, women writers, and working-class poets like the shoemaker poet, John Struthers, applied to her for assistance. She wrote letters, drew on all her contacts, and used her knowledge of the literary world either to advise or to further a less well-connected writer. In 1823, she edited and published by subscription a collection of poems by many of the leading writers of the day, in support of a widowed old school friend with a family of daughters to support.

Few women writers have received such universal commendation for their personal qualities and literary powers as Joanna Baillie. Her intelligence and integrity were allied to a modest demeanour which made her, for many, the epitome of a Christian gentlewoman. She was also shrewd, observant of human nature, and persistent to the point of obstinacy in developing her own views and opinions. Her brand of drama remained essentially unchanged throughout her life, and she took pride in having carried out her major work, the Plays on the Passions, more or less in the form she had originally conceived. Her inventive faculties were widely remarked upon by “practically everybody whose opinion on a literary matter was worth anything” (Carswell 275), and she was on friendly terms with all the leading women writers of her time.

John Stuart Mill, in his Autobiography, recalled that in his childhood, Baillie’s Constantine Paleologus appeared to him ‘one of the most glorious of human compositions’ and that he continued to think it ‘one of the best dramas of the last two centuries’.

Two songs from Ethwald, Hark! the cock crows and Once upon my cheek he said the roses grew, were set to music by the English composer John Wall Callcott.

One of her few detractors was Francis Jeffrey, who in 1803 published a long condemnatory review of the Plays on the Passions in the Edinburgh Review. He attacked the narrow theory, practice, and purpose of the plays; and though he also praised her ‘genius,’ Joanna Baillie marked him down as her literary enemy and refused a personal introduction. It was not until 1820 that she agreed to meet him; characteristically, they then became warm friends.

Joanna Baillie offered the literary world a new way of looking at drama and poetry. Revered by poets on both sides of the Atlantic, many of her contemporaries placed her above all women poets except Sappho. According to Harriet Martineau she had ‘enjoyed a fame almost without parallel, and … been told every day for years, through every possible channel, that she was second only to Shakespeare’ (Martineau 358). At one time her works were translated into Cingalese and German, and were performed widely in both the United States and Great Britain.

But even when Martineau met her, in the 1830s, that fame seemed to belong to a bygone era. There were no revivals of her plays in the nineteenth or twentieth centuries; and yet, as psychological studies, her tragedies would seem very suited to the intimacy of television or film. It was not until the late twentieth century that critics began to recognize the extent to which her intimate depictions of the human psyche influenced Romantic literature. Scholars now recognize her importance as an innovator on the stage and as a dramatic theorist, and critics and literary historians of the Romantic period concerned with reassessing the place of women writers are acknowledging her significance.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Harriet Martineau
12 June 1802 – 27 June 1876


Harriet Martineau

Harriet was an English social theorist and Whig writer, often cited as the first female sociologist.

Martineau wrote only one book but multitude of essays from a sociological, holistic, religious, domestic, and, perhaps most controversial, sexual identity, a feminine perspective; she also translated various works from Auguste Comte. She earned enough to be supported entirely by her writing, a challenging feat for a woman in the Victorian era. Martineau has said of her approach: “when one studies a society, one must focus on all its aspects, including key political, religious, and social institutions”. She believed a thorough societal analysis was necessary to understand woman’s status under men.

The sixth of eight children, Harriet Martineau was born in Norwich, England, where her father was a manufacturer. Her mother was the daughter of a sugar refiner and a grocer. The Martineau family was of French Huguenot ancestry and professed Unitarian views. She was closest to her brother, James, who became a clergyman in the tradition of the English Dissenters. According to the writer Diana Postlethwaite, Harriet’s relationship with her mother was strained and lacking affection, which contributed to views expressed in her later writing. Martineau claimed her mother abandoned her to a wet nurse.

Her ideals on domesticity and the “natural faculty for housewifery” as described in her piece, Household Education written in 1848, stemmed from her lack of nurture growing up. Martineau’s mother was the antithesis of the warm and nurturing qualities which Harriet believed to be necessary for girls at an early age. Martineau’s mother urged all her children to be well-read, but at the same time opposed female pedantics “with a sharp eye for feminine propriety and good manners. Her daughters could never be seen in public with a pen in their hand.” Her mother strictly enforced proper feminine behavior, pushing her daughter to “hold a sewing needle” as well as the pen.

Martineau began losing her sense of taste and smell, becoming increasingly deaf at a young age and having to use an ear trumpet. It was the beginning of many health problems in her life. In 1821 she began to write anonymously for the Monthly Repository, a Unitarian periodical, and in 1823 she published Devotional Exercises and Addresses, Prayers and Hymns. Her father’s business failed in 1829. At 27 years old, Martineau stepped out of feminine propriety in order to earn a living for her family. Along with her needlework, she began selling her articles to the Monthly Repository. Her first commissioned volume, Illustrations of Political Economy, was published in February 1832 and quickly became successful. Martineau agreed to compose monthly volumes for 24 months, each critiquing various political and economic affairs. She developed the multi-volume work as a fictional tutorial on different political economists such as Malthus, Ricardo, and Bentham for the general public. It was her first piece to receive widespread acclaim. She continued to write for the Repository, earning accolades, including three essay prizes from the Unitarian Association. Her work with the Repository established her as a successful writer.

Writing was considerably gendered in the Victorian era. Non-fiction and prose about social, economic and political issues was dominated by men, while lighter writing about romance and domesticity were considered to be appropriate for women authors. Despite these gendered expectations in the literary world, Martineau strongly expressed her opinions on a variety of topics. In 1832 Martineau moved to London. Among her acquaintances were: Henry Hallam, Harriet Taylor, Alexander Maconochie, Henry Hart Milman, Thomas Malthus, Monckton Milnes, Sydney Smith, John Stuart Mill, George Eliot, Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Charles Lyell, as well as Thomas Carlyle. She met Florence Nightingale and Charlotte Brontë later on in her literary career.

Until 1834 Martineau was occupied with her political economy series as well as a supplemental series of Illustrations of Taxation. About the same time, she published four stories expressing support of the Whig Poor Law reforms. These tales (direct, lucid, written without any appearance of effort, and yet practically effective) display the characteristics of their author’s style. Tory paternalists reacted by calling her a Malthusian “who deprecates charity and provision for the poor”, while Radicals opposed her to the same degree. Whig high society fêted her.

In 1834, after completing the economic series, Harriet Martineau paid a long visit to the United States. During this time, she visited with James Madison, the former president, at his home of Montpelier. She also met numerous abolitionists in Boston and studied the emerging girls’ schools established for their education. Her support of abolitionism, unpopular in the South, caused controversy. Her publication, soon after her return, of Society in America (1837) and How to Observe Morals and Manners (1838), added to the controversy. The two books are considered to have led to the founding of modern sociology.

Her article “The Martyr Age of the United States” (1839), in the Westminster Review, introduced English readers to the struggles of the abolitionists in America several years after Britain had abolished slavery.

In October 1836, soon after returning from the voyage of the Beagle, Charles Darwin went to London to stay with his brother Erasmus. He found him spending his days “driving out Miss Martineau”, who had returned from her trip to the United States. Erasmus and Harriet worked towards an understanding that could have let to marriage but that the Darwin’s father was opposed to fearing that Harriet was too extreme.

Martineau wrote Deerbrook (1838), a three-volume novel published after her American books. She portrayed a failed love affair between a physician and his sister-in-law. It was considered her most successful novel. She also wrote The Hour and the Man: An Historical Romance (1839), a three-volume novel about the Haitian slave leader Toussaint L’Ouverture, who contributed to the island nation’s gaining independence in 1804.

In 1839, during a visit to Continental Europe, Martineau was diagnosed with a uterine tumor. She several times visited her brother-in-law, Thomas Michael Greenhow, who was a celebrated doctor in Newcastle upon Tyne, to try to alleviate her symptoms. On the last occasion she stayed for six months in the Greenhow family house at 28 Eldon Square. Immobile and confined to a couch, she was cared for by her mother until purchasing a house and hiring a nurse to aid her.

She next moved downriver to Tynemouth, where she stayed at Mrs Halliday’s boarding-house, 57 Front Street, for nearly five years from 16 March 1840. Her illness caused her to literally enact the social constraints of her gender during this time.

Martineau wrote at least three books during her illness, and a historical plaque marks this house. In 1844 she published both Crofton Boys, the children’s novel, and Life in the Sickroom: Essays by an Invalid, an autobiographical reflection on invalidism. She wrote Household Education (1848), the handbook on the ‘proper’ way to raise and educate children. Lastly, she began working on her autobiography. Completed much later, it included some hundred pages to this period. Notable visitors included Richard Cobden and Thomas Carlyle and his wife.

Life in the Sickroom is considered to be one of Martineau’s most underrated works. It upset evangelical readers as they “thought it dangerous in ‘its supposition of self-reliance.’ This series of essays embraced traditional womanhood. Martineau dedicated it to Elizabeth Barrett, as it was “an outpouring of feeling to an idealized female alter ego, both professional writer and professional invalid- and utterly unlike the women in her own family.” Written during a kind of public break from her mother, this book was Martineau’s proclamation of independence.

At the same time, Martineau turned the traditional patient/doctor relationship on its head by asserting control over her space even in sickness. The sickroom was her space. Life in the Sickroom explained how to regain control even in illness. Alarmed that a woman was suggesting such a position in the power dynamic, critics suggested that, as she was an invalid, her mind must also be sick and the work was not to be taken seriously. British and Foreign Medical Review dismissed Martineau’s piece on the same basis as the critics: an ill person cannot write a healthy work. They thought it was unheard of for a woman to suggest being in a position of control, especially in sickness. Instead, the Review recommended patients’ follow “unconditional submission” to the advice of doctors. They disagreed with the idea that Martineau might hold any sort of “authority to Britain’s invalids.”

During her illness, she for a second time declined a pension on the civil list, fearing to compromise her political independence. After publication of her letter on the subject, some of her friends raised a small annuity for her soon after.

In 1844 Martineau underwent a course of mesmerism, returning to health after a few months. There was national interest in mesmerism at this time. Also known as ‘animal magnetism’, it can be defined as a “loosely grouped set of practices in which one person influenced another through a variety of personal actions, or through the direct influence of one mind on another mind. Mesmerism was designed to make invisible forces augment the mental powers of the mesmeric object.” She eventually published an account of her case in sixteen Letters on Mesmerism, which caused much discussion. Her work led to friction with “the natural prejudices of a surgeon and a surgeon’s wife” (her brother-in-law and sister).

In 1845 she left Tynemouth for Ambleside in the Lake District, where she built herself the house called “The Knoll”, where she spent the greater part of her later life. In 1845 she published three volumes of Forest and Game Law Tales. In 1846 she toured Egypt, Palestine and Syria with some friends, and on her return published Eastern Life, Present and Past (1848). This travelogue expressed her concept that, as humanity passed through one after another of the world’s historic religions, the conception of the deity and of divine government became at each step more and more abstract and indefinite. She believed the ultimate goal to be philosophic atheism, but did not explicitly say so in the book. She described ancient tombs, “the black pall of oblivion” set against the paschal “puppet show” in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and noted that Christian beliefs in reward and punishment were based on and similar to heathen superstitions. Describing an ancient Egyptian tomb, she wrote, “How like ours were his life and death!… Compare him with a retired naval officer made country gentleman in our day, and in how much less do they differ than agree!” The book’s “infidel tendency” was too much for the publisher John Murray, who rejected it.

Martineau wrote Household Education in 1848, lamenting the state of women’s education. She believed women had a natural inclination to motherhood and believed domestic work went hand in hand with academia for a proper, well-rounded education. She stated, “I go further than most persons… in desiring thorough practice in domestic occupations, from an early age, for young girls” She proposed that freedom and rationality, rather than command and obedience, are the most effectual instruments of education.

Her interest in schemes of instruction led her to start a series of lectures, addressed at first to the school children of Ambleside, but afterward extended to their parents, at the request of the adults. The subjects were sanitary principles and practice, the histories of England and North America, and the scenes of her Eastern travels. At the request of the publisher Charles Knight, in 1849 she wrote The History of the Thirty Years’ Peace, 1816–1846, an excellent popular history from the point of view of a “philosophical Radical”. Martineau productively spanned a variety of subjects in her writing and did so with more assertiveness than was expected of women at the time. She has been described as having an “essentially masculine nature”. It was commonly thought that a progressive woman, in order to be progressive, was emulating the qualities of a man.

Martineau’s work included a widely used guide book to the Lake District, “A Complete Guide to the English Lakes”, published in 1855 and in its 4th edition by 1876.

Martineau edited a volume of Letters on the Laws of Man’s Nature and Development, published in March 1851. Its epistolary form is based on correspondence between her and the self-styled scientist Henry G. Atkinson. She expounded the doctrine of philosophical atheism, which she thought the tendency of human belief . She did not deny a first cause but declared it unknowable. She and Atkinson thought they affirmed man’s moral obligation. Atkinson was a zealous exponent of mesmerism. The prominence given to the topics of mesmerism and clairvoyance heightened the general disapproval of the book. Literary London was outraged by its mesmeric evolutionary atheism, and the book caused a lasting division between Martineau and some of her friends.

From 1852 to 1866, she contributed regularly to the Daily News, writing sometimes six leaders a week. It also published her Letters from Ireland, written during a visit to that country in the summer of 1852. For many years she was a contributor to the Westminster Review; in 1854 she was among financial supporters who prevented its closing down.

Martineau believed she was psychosomatic; this medical belief of the times related the uterus to emotions and hysteria. She had symptoms of hysteria in her loss of taste and smell. Her partial deafness throughout life may have contributed to her problems. Various people, including the maid, her brother, and Spencer T. Hall (a notable mesmerist) performed mesmerism on her. Some historians attribute her apparent recovery from symptoms to a shift in the positioning of her tumor so that it no longer obstructed other organs. As the physical improvements were the first signs of healing she had in five years and happened at the same time of her first mesmeric treatment, Martineau confidentially credited mesmerism with her “cure.”

She continued her political activism during the late 1850s and 1860s. She supported the Married Women’s Property Bill and in 1856 signed a petition for it organized by Barbara Bodichon. She also pushed for licensed prostitution and laws that addressed the customers rather than the women. She supported women’s suffrage and signed Bodichon’s petition in its favor in 1866.

In the early part of 1855, Martineau was suffering from heart disease. She began to write her autobiography, as she expected her life to end. Completing the book rapidly in three months, she postponed its publication until after her death, and lived another two decades. Her autobiography was published posthumously in 1877.

When Darwin’s book The Origin of Species was published in 1859, his brother Erasmus sent a copy to his old flame Harriet Martineau. At age 58, she was still reviewing from her home in the Lake District.

Martineau supported Darwin’s theory because it was not based in theology. Martineau strove for secularism stating, “In the present state of the religious world, Secularism ought to flourish. What an amount of sin and woe might and would then be extinguished.” She wrote to her fellow Malthusian (and atheist) George Holyoake enthusing, “What a book it is! – overthrowing (if true) revealed Religion on the one hand, & Natural (as far as Final Causes & Design are concerned) on the other. The range & mass of knowledge take away one’s breath.”

As early as 1831, Martineau wrote on the subject “Political Economy” (as the field of economics was then known). Her goal was to popularise and illustrate the principles of laissez faire capitalism, though she made no claim to original theorising.

Martineau’s reflections on Society in America, published in 1837, are prime examples of her approach to the area later known as sociological methods. Her ideas in this field were set out in her 1838 book How to Observe Morals and Manners. She believed that some very general social laws influence the life of any society, including the principle of progress, the emergence of science as the most advanced product of human intellectual endeavour, and the significance of population dynamics and the natural physical environment.

Auguste Comte coined the name sociology and published a rambling exposition under the title of Cours de Philosophie Positive in 1839. Martineau undertook a translation that was published in two volumes in 1853 as The Positive Philosophy of Auguste Comte (freely translated and condensed by Harriet Martineau). It was a remarkable achievement, but a successful one. Comte recommended her volumes to his students instead of his own. Some writers regard Martineau as “the first woman sociologist”. Her introduction of Comte to the English-speaking world and the elements of sociological perspective in her original writings support her credit as a sociologist.

Harriet Martineau died at “The Knoll” on 27 June 1876.

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