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Wright, Frances.

Few Days in Athens, A.

Book

A Magnificent Association Copy
Inscribed And Emended By Wright
Wright, Frances D'Arusmont. A Few Days In Athens, Being The Translation of A Greek Manuscript Discovered in Herculaneum. London: Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1822.
Small 8vo.; contemporary half-calf; spine decoratively stamped in blind with double gilt rules and gilt title; fine.        
First edition: Shaw and Shoemaker 20264. The quintessential association copy, inscribed: "Robert Dale Owen from the Author." Wright has emended page 11, adding a full line of text in autograph. The printed sentence reads: "Many are called impious, not for having a worse, but a different religion from their neighbors; and many atheistic, not for the denying of God, but for thinking somewhat peculiarly concerning him." Wright has substituted "thinking somewhat peculiarly concerning him" with: "modestly confessing ignorance where others profess knowledge." The recipient, abolitionist and Utopian Robert Dale Owen, has drawn a frontispiece of Epicurus in pen and brush, as well as an additional "title page" depicting a Greek youth leaning against a column, with appropriate scenery. The column bears the tongue-in-cheek motto, "Think for yourself"; beneath the drawing there is a quote from page 125 (though Owen has labeled it "page 100"): "'Do not cease,' exclaimed Theon, 'I could listen to you throughout eternity.'" This title page, all in Owen's hand and dated "New York copyright 1931," is clearly his attempt at preparing an American edition of this work, possibly an illustrated one. No doubt Wright emended page 11 in anticipation of the book's republication. Shaw and Shoemaker, however, do not record any such edition.
Frances Wright (1897-1852), freethinking reformer, traveler, and journalist, was born in Dundee, Scotland in 1795, to a politically active family. Both her father-James Wright, a philanthropist who aided in the publication and distribution of Thomas Paine's Rights of Man-and mother died before Wright turned three, but they clearly left her their radical leanings as well as a large fortune. Wright was educated in London and Scotland, where her literary merit as well as her rebellious streak were made manifest almost immediately. At the age of 18 she wrote A Few Days In Athens which, according to DAB, "contained the well-worked out materialistic philosophy that [Wright] followed throughout her life."
Wright emigrated to New York in 1818, where she entered a small community of young intellectuals, and successfully mounted private productions of some of her political dramas. In 1821 she published Views of Society and Manners in America, a sort of politicized travelogue which later resulted in a close friendship with General Lafayette. As his companion on his 1824 tour of America, Wright visited Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and "discussed with them the problem of Negro slavery." She then began work on a plan for the gradual emancipation of the slaves, which she presented to Jefferson for his approval. Unlike many of the abolitionists, Wright actually put her experiment to the test by purchasing a tract of land in western Tennessee, called Nashoba, on which she proposed that slaves could work for their freedom. In the fall of 1825 Wright purchased a small lot of slaves and colonized them in Haiti.
Wright met Robert Owen in 1826, at the colony of New Harmony, Indiana, established by his father, the radical philosopher Robert Owen. The colony's mission was to enact a social experiment in reform through cooperation and rational education. From their earliest encounters the younger Owen found himself riveted by Wright, whom he came to regard as an intellectual and spiritual mentor. After the two visited Wright's own abolitionist colony in Tennessee in 1827, they returned to New Harmony, where they established residence and worked for three years editing a political manifesto, the New Harmony Gazette. During this time Wright achieved public prominence through her controversial lectures, in which she attacked religion, defended equal rights for women, and advocated the dissolution of marriage. In 1831 Owen moved, with Wright, to New York, and took over their joint editorial duties to allow for Wright's career as a full-time activist and lecturer. Later that year the two parted, and Wright married radical colleague William Phiquepal D'Armusmont. Still, Owen and Wright remained lifelong friends, and Wright's influence became evident late in Owen's life when, as, a mature politician and member of the Indiana legislature, he supported property rights for married women and liberalized divorce laws. During his political career Owen authored of several notable tracts, including Divorce: Being a Correspondence Between Horace Greeley and Robert Dale Owen (1860) and The Wrong of Slavery (1864). Wright's broader influence is aptly encapsulated by the DAB: "Frances Wright was a woman of extraordinary physical and moral courage, unusual intellect, and considerable imagination. Her fearlessness and initiative contributed definitely to the emancipation of women, though her influence as exerted more by her example than by her doctrines" (Vol. XX, 549).
The most important copy of this scarce book imaginable; an extraordinary survival.
(#4359)

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