Until the late 20th century, Wollstonecraft's life, which encompassed several unconventional personal relationships, received more attention than her writing. After two ill-fated affairs, with Henry Fuseli and Gilbert Imlay (by whom she had a daughter, Fanny Imlay), Wollstonecraft married the philosopher William Godwin, one of the forefathers of the anarchist movement. Wollstonecraft died at the age of thirty-eight, ten days after giving birth to her second daughter, leaving behind several unfinished manuscripts. Her daughter Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, later Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, would become an accomplished writer herself.
After Wollstonecraft's death, her widower published a Memoir (1798) of her life, revealing her unorthodox lifestyle, which inadvertently destroyed her reputation for almost a century. However, with the emergence of the feminist movement at the turn of the twentieth century, Wollstonecraft's advocacy of women's equality and critiques of conventional femininity became increasingly important. Today Wollstonecraft is regarded as one of the founding feminist philosophers, and feminists often cite both her life and work as important influences.
Writing to another woman by whom she had recently felt betrayed, Wollstonecraft declared, "The roses will bloom when there's peace in the breast, and the prospect of living with my Fanny gladdens my heart:—You know not how I love her." Wollstonecraft's first novel Mary: A Fiction, in part, addressed her relationship with Fanny Blood.
Wollstonecraft wrote Mary at the town of Hotwells in Bristol while a governess for the Anglo-Irish Kingsborough family. Her relationships with the family provided fodder for the novel, a work that Wollstonecraft herself admitted was "drawn from Nature". Eliza, for example, is partially based on Lady Kingsborough, who Wollstonecraft believed cared more for her dogs than for her children. More importantly, the friendship between Mary and Ann closely resembles the relationship between Wollstonecraft and her intimate companion Fanny Blood, who meant "all the world" to her and, as Wollstonecraft's husband William Godwin later put it, "for whom she contracted a friendship so fervent, as for years to have constituted the ruling passion of her mind". Wollstonecraft's representation of Fanny as Ann has been called "condescending"; critics have speculated that because Wollstonecraft felt betrayed by Fanny's decision to marry, she depicted Ann as a friend who could never satisfy the heroine.
Claudia Johnson cautions against labelling Mary and Ann's relationship lesbian, since the identity-defining concepts of heterosexuality and homosexuality did not exist during the 18th century; she maintains, rather, that their relationship is a bond which cannot be articulated through language. This bond is perhaps best described as erotic rather than overtly sexual. Further evidence to support such an interpretation comes from Wollstonecraft's life. Wollstonecraft based her portrait of Ann on her close friend, Fanny Blood, and when her husband, William Godwin, came to write his Memoirs of the Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1798), he described Fanny and Wollstonecraft's first meeting as similar to the one between the tortured lovers Charlotte and Werther in Goethe's sentimental novel The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774). One biographer of Wollstonecraft notes that Hester Chapone's Letters on the Improvement of the Mind, which influenced Wollstonecraft's earlier Thoughts on the Education of Daughters (1787), dedicates several chapters to these "friends of the heart"; such friendships would not have seemed unusual to 18th-century readers.
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
CreateSpace Store: https://www.createspace.com/4910282
Amazon (Paperback): http://www.amazon.com/dp/1500563323/?tag=e
Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MZG0VHY/?tag=e
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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