Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
Oxford University Press, 1999 - Biography & Autobiography - 680 pages
This book is the first to look at Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's achievement as a vital figure in the women's literary tradition. Robert Halsband's book on her life, the sixth this century and published in 1956, was the first to apply scholarly techniques to establishing the facts. The inaccurateaccounts given before Halsband testify to Lady Mary's compelling interest as a woman who wrote, travelled, campaigned publicly for medical advance, gossiped, and was involved in high-profile literary quarrels. Knowledge of her life has made considerable gains since Halsband, as understanding of theissues involved in trying to move between the roles of proper lady and woman writer has increased enormously. This life fruitfully exploits the tension between literary history and feminist reading. Isobel Grundy highlights Montagu's adolescent longing for literary fame, her growing understandingof the implications of this for gender and class imperatives, the frustrations and concessions involved in her collaborations with male writers, the punitive responses of society, the gaps at every stage of her life between her ascertainable circumstances and her construction of herself in lettersand other writings. The book situates those writings in relation to her own theorizing and her very wide reading in women's texts as well as men's. Finally, it looks at a range of contemporary and near-contemporary responses.
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