The Hour and the Man: An Historical Romance

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Echo Library, 2008 - Fiction - 344 pages
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About the author (2008)

Martineau, from a devout and strict Unitarian family in Norwich, was born without the sense either of taste or of smell and, by the age of 12, showed signs of severe deafness. Throughout the early years of her life, she battled poverty and illness. At her mother's insistence, Martineau was educated, at first at home by her brothers and then for a short time at school. Because her loss of hearing became worse, she was sent home. Within a space of about three years during the late 1820's, Martineau's favorite brother, Thomas, died; her father lost his fortune and died; and her fiance became insane and died. By 1829, the last of the family money was gone, and she was reduced to helping support her mother and sisters with her needlework. At about this time, she began to review for the Unitarian periodical The Monthly Repository and in 1831 won all three prizes in the magazine's contest for the best essays on the conversion of Catholics, Jews, and Muslims. During 1832-33,she published the tales "Illustrations of Political Economy" and its sequel, "Poor Laws and Paupers," in monthly parts. Despite their pointed didacticism, the works were a tremendous success. Other works of fiction followed. In 1839, she published her first novel, "Deerbrook," and, three years later, her fictionalized biography of Toussaint L'Ouverture, "The Hour and the Man," appeared. Despite her forays into fiction, however, Martineau is better known today for her historical, political, and philosophical writings. Early in her career, she was influenced by the classical economies of David Ricardo and Thomas Malthus. She was friends with Edwin Chadwick and James Kay-Shuttleworth, and acquainted with John Stuart Mill. A strong, often radical proponent of utilitarian reform, early in her career she wrote a number of instructive texts that advocated the same curriculum for men and women. By the mid 1840's, Martineau had completely thrown off her Unitarianism and in 1851, published her antitheological "Laws of Man's Social Nature." Some good work has been done on Martineau's life and writings, especially on the political aspects of her public life. Books on Martineau as a literary artist are scarcer; Deirdre David's "Intellectual Women and Victorian Patriarchy" (1987) contains an excellent discussion of Martineau, and Valerie Sanders's "Reason over Passion" (1986) discusses Martineau as a novelist. One of the most insightful books on Martineau, and one of the most readable, is her own Autobiography (1877).

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