align="center"From: Memoirs of Mary Wolstonecraft, Constable and Co. Limited. London 1928
Being now determined to enter upon her literary plan, Mary came immediately from Bristol to the metropolis. Her conduct under this circumstance was such as to do credit both to her own heart, and that of Mr. Johnson, her publisher, between whom and herself there now commenced an intimate friendship. She had seen him upon occasion of publishing her Thoughts on the Education of Daughters, and she addressed two or three letters to him during her residence in Ireland. Upon her arrival in London in August 1787, she went immediately to his house, and frankly explained to him her purpose, at the same time requesting his advice and assistance as to its execution. After a short conversation, Mr. Johnson invited her to make his house her home, till she should have suited herself with a fixed residence. She accordingly resided at this time two or three weeks under his roof. At the same period she paid a visit or two of similar duration to some friends, at no great distance from the metropolis. 1
At Michaelmas 1787, she entered upon a house in George street, on the Surry side of Black Friar's Bridge, which Mr. Johnson had provided for her during her excursion into the country. 2 The three years immediately ensuing, may be said, in the ordinary acceptation of the term, to have been the most active period 3 of her life. She brought with her to this habitation, the novel of Mary, which had not yet been sent to the press, and the commencement of a sort of oriental tale, entitled the Cave of Fancy, which she thought proper afterwards to lay aside unfinished. I am told that at this period she appeared under great dejection of spirits, and filled with melancholy regret for the loss of her youthful friend. A period of two years had elapsed since the death of that friend; but it was possibly the composition of the fiction of Mary, that renewed her sorrows in their original force. Soon after entering upon her new habitation, she produced a little work, entitled, Original Stories from Real Life, intended for the use of children. At the commencement of her literary career, she is said to have conceived a vehement aversion to the being regarded, by her ordinary acquaintance, in the character of an author, and to have employed some precautions to prevent its occurrence.
The employment which the bookseller suggested to her, as the easiest and most certain source of pecuniary income, of course, 4 was translation. With this view she improved herself in her French, with which she had previously but a slight acquaintance, and acquired the Italian and German languages. The greater part of her literary engagements at this time, were such as were presented to her by Mr. Johnson. She new-modelled and abridged a work, translated from the Dutch, entitled, Young Grandison: she began a translation from the French, of a book, called, the New Robinson; but in this undertaking, she was, I believe, anticipated by another translator: and she compiled a series of extracts in verse and prose, upon the model of Dr. Enfield's Speaker, which bears the title of the Female Reader; but which, from a cause not worth mentioning, has hitherto been printed with a different name in the title-page.
About the middle of the year 1788, Mr. Johnson instituted the Analytical Review, in which Mary took a considerable share. She also translated Necker on the Importance of Religious Opinions; made an abridgment of Lavater's Physiognomy, from the French, which has never been published; and com pressed Salzmann's Elements of Morality, a German production, into a publication in three volumes duodecimo. The translation of Salzmann produced a correspondence between Mary and the author; and he afterwards repaid the obligation to her in kind, by a German translation of the Rights of Woman. Such were her principal literary occupations, from the autumn of 1787, to the autumn of 1790.
It perhaps deserves to be remarked that this sort of miscellaneous literary employment, seems, for the time at least, rather to damp and contract, than to enlarge and invigorate, the genius. The writer is accustomed to see his performances answer the mere 5 mercantile purpose of the day, and confounded with those of persons to whom he is secretly conscious of a superiority. No neighbour mind serves as a mirror to reflect the generous confidence he felt within 6 himself; and perhaps the man never yet existed, who could maintain his enthusiasm to its full vigour, in the midst of this kind of solitariness. He is touched with the torpedo of mediocrity. I believe that nothing which Mary produced during this period, is marked with those daring flights, which exhibit themselves in the little fiction she composed just before its commencement. Among effusions of a nobler cast, I find occasionally interspersed some of 7 that homily-language, which, to speak from 8 my own feelings, is calculated to damp the moral courage it was intended to awaken. This is probably to be assigned to the causes above described.
I have already said that one of the purposes which Mary had conceived, a few years before, as necessary to give a 9 relish to the otherwise insipid, or embittered, draught of human life, was usefulness. On this side, the period of her existence of which I am now treating, is more brilliant, than in a literary view. She determined to apply as great a part as possible of the produce of her present employments, to the assistance of her friends and of the distressed; and, for this purpose, laid down to herself rules of the most rigid economy. She began with endeavouring to promote the interest of her sisters. She conceived that there was no situation in which she could place them, at once so respectable and agree able, as that of governesses in private families. She determined therefore in the first place, to endeavour to qualify them for such an undertaking. Her younger sister she sent to Paris, where she remained near two years. The elder she placed in a school near London, first as a parlour-boarder, and afterwards as a teacher. Her brother James, who had already been at sea, she first took into her house, and next sent to Woolwich for in struction, to qualify him for a respectable situation in the royal navy, where he was shortly after made a lieutenant. Charles, who was her favourite brother, had been articled to the eldest, an attorney in the Minories; but not being satisfied with his situation, she effected a transfer of his indentures to another attorney, 10 and in some time after, having first placed him with a farmer for instruction, she fitted him out for America, where his speculations, founded upon the basis she had provided, 11 are said to have been extremely prosperous. The reason so much of this parental sort of12 a care fell upon her, is to be traced to the embarassed circumstances of her father. 13 His affairs having [some time before] grown too complex for himself to disentangle, he had entrusted them to the management of a near relation; but, as they did not appear to benefit from the superintendence of their new manager, Mary about this time 14 took them into her own hands. The exertions she made, and the struggle into which she entered however, in this instance, were ultimately fruitless. To the day of her death her father was almost wholly supported by funds which she supplied to him. 15 In addition to her exertions for her own family, she took a young girl of about seven years of age under her protection and care, the niece of Mrs. John Hunter, and of the present Mrs. Skeys, for whose mother, then lately dead, she had entertained a sincere friendship.
The period, from the end of the year 1787 to the end of the year 1790, though consumed in labours of little eclat, served still further to establish her in a friendly connection from which she derived many pleasures. Mr. Johnson, the bookseller, contracted a great personal regard for her, which resembled in many respects that of a parent. As she frequented his house, she of course became acquainted with his guests. Among these may be mentioned as persons possessing her esteem, Mr. Bonnycastle, the mathematician, the late Mr. George Anderson, accountant to the board of control, Dr. George Fordyce, and Mr. Fuseli, the celebrated painter. Between both of the two latter and herself, there existed sentiments of genuine affection and friendship.
1 At the same period . . . metropolis. del.
2 which Mr. Johnson . . . country del.
3 period] part.
4 of course del.
5 mere] merely.
6 within] in.
7 Among effusions . . . some of] Interspersed among occasional traits of an original mind, I find a portion of.
8 from del.
9 a del.
10 she effected . . . to another attorney] she removed him Ist 6d.
11 basis she had provided] preparation thus bestowed on him.
12 a sort of del.
13 is to be traced . . . her father] was, that her father had by this time considerably embarassed his circumstances. Ist ed.
14 but, as . . . about this time] but Mary, not being satisfied with the conduct of the business, Ist ed
15 which she supplied to himi] with which she supplied him.
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