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Wright, Frances.

Course of Popular Lectures.

Book

In Pursuit of Liberty, Liberality and Instructional Reform
Wright, Frances. Course of Popular Lectures…With three addresses on various public occasions. And a reply to the charges against the French reformers of 1789. New York: the Free Enquirer, 1831.
Bound together with:
Supplement Course of Lectures, containing the last four lectures delivered in the United States. New York: Wright and Owen, 1831.
8vo.; foxed throughout; lower parts of pages dampstained; endpapers offset; remnants of glue on the upper and lower pastedowns, most likely from excessive use of glue during the binding process; grey-blue paper-covered boards; pink linen spine; printed label affixed to spine; sunned; edgeworn; rubbed. In a specially made cloth slipcase.
Fourth edition-the first edition was published in 1829; with one page of the publisher's advertisements in the rear; first edition to print Wright's Supplement, which features transcriptions of lectures and addresses made to the public on various topics reflecting her work as a political reformer and a free-thinker. The first part of the book, Course of Popular Lectures, includes "The Nature of Knowledge," "Religion," "Morals," and "Opinions," as well as "Reply to the charges against the French reformers of 1789," and an analytical table of contents at the rear. The Supplement prints four previously unpublished lectures: "Address on the state of the public mind, and the measures which it calls for"; the "Address, containing a review of the times, as first delivered in the Hall of Science, New-York on Sunday, May 9, 1830"; the "Address to the young mechanics"; and the "Parting address, as delivered in the Bowery Theatre, to the people of New-York, in June 1830." Each Address has its own pagination and title page. A separate Volume II was published by Wright in Philadelphia in 1836 (OCLC). Sabin 105588, 105596; AI 10744 [2], 10745 [4]not in Eberstadt or Decker.
Originally from Scotland, Wright refers to America in her Preface as "my adopted country" (p. 8), and enumerates injustices she's come to recognize; namely, that neglected state of women's minds, and their consequent dependent condition, and the "ineptness and corruption" of the press (p. 9). She explains, "All then that I observed, conspired to fix me in the determination of devoting my time and labour to the investigation and exposure of existing evils and abuses, and to the gradual development of the first principals of all moral and physical truth, every where so perplexed and confounded by the sophistry of false learning, the craft of designing knavery, and the blunders of conceited ignorance" (p. 10). This book is an attempt at "melioration" of these problems, which she feels is her duty to the American people, "the only people free to choose between truth and error, good and evil" (p. 11).
In the closing paragraph of her Preface, she touts her publication, The Free Enquirer (formerly, the New Harmony Gazette), for bring "the first periodical established in the United States for the purpose of fearless and unbiassed [sic] enquiry on all subjects" (p. 12).
In her lecture titled, "Opinions," Wright argues that "persecution for opinion is the master vice of society" (p. 128). She goes on to provide examples of persecution in American experience, dramatically concluding with a series of metaphors,
It was this drave from their native isle the forefathers of this nation; and it has been, and yet is, the same scourger of human peace, and the bridler of human liberty, PERSECUTION FOR OPINION, which ruffles the whole surface of this fair republic, nurtures the harsh spirit and pride of sectarianism, hardens the heart of man toward his brother, sours the disposition of woman, and drops gall and aloes into the cup of human life. Surely, then, we are called, in our character of reasoning beings, to pierce the source of this poisonous fountain of woe! Surely then, are ye doubly called, in your character of a self-governing people, to arrest the flow of it's deadly waters, and to seek the ways and the means for refreshing the land with the soft dews of love! (p. 129)
At the end of this lecture, Wright explains she is not affiliated with any particular religion, but, more broadly, is "a member of the human family, and would accept truth by whomsoever offered…in nature, not in human imagination; in our hearts, not in temples made with hands" (p. 148). A statement which surely would have added fuel to her detractors fire against her.
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