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Wollstonecraft, Mary, subject) Neubaar, M.

Mary Wollstonecraft." In NECROLOGY:


Mary Wollstonecraft:
A Contemporary Biography
(Wollstonecraft, Mary) M. Neubauer. "Mary Wollstonecraft." In Necrology. Being memoirs of the lives of eminent and extraordinary characters. London: Printed for Lackington, Allen, and Co., Temple of the Muses, 1805, 411-60.
8vo.; hinges starting; light foxing to preliminaries; discreet inscriptions and ownership stamps to front endpapers; all edges marbled; full morocco stamped in gilt and red; light wear to extremities.   
Second edition, so stated on the title page, of this compilation of mini-biographies of "eminent and extraordinary characters," including also "various articles of neglected biography." The 50-page account of Wollstonecraft's life covers the family environment in which she was raised, her early education, her travels throughout Europe and career as a writer, as well as her marriage, death, and the inscription on her headstone. In addition to presenting a narrative chronology of her life, Neubauer provides ample first-person testimony, quoting from many of her letters as well as from her husband's memoir. He also adds a footnote to dispel contemporary gossip: "An absurd report has been propagated, that Mrs. Wollstonecraft was governess to a younger daughter of lord K___h, whose imprudence, or misfortunes, have lately rendered her a subject of public animadversion. This notion will be utterly confuted by a little attention to chronology."
In attempting to present a balanced review of Wollstonecraft's life, Neubauer offers some insight into her personal failings, but ultimately he declares that her human foibles were of no more consequence than those of any reader's, and may even be worthy of less notice, in light of her achievements:
The powers and resources of her mind, amidst the disadvantages of her sex and station, bespeak talents of the highest order; her conceptions were bold and original, her freedom of thinking, and courage in stemming popular opinions, worthy of admiration. An obscure individual, unknown and unsupported, she raised herself by her own exertions to an eminence that excited, in an extraordinary degree, public attention, and afforded her a celebrity extending beyond the limits of the country which gave her birth. More than feminine sensibility and tenderness, united with masculine strength and fortitude, a combination as admirable as rare, were the peculiar characteristics of her mind. …Her own sex have lost, in the premature fate of this extraordinary woman, an able champion; yet she has not laboured in vain: the spirit of reform is silently pursuing its course. Who can mark its limits?
Necrology-literally, "neglected biography"-was conceived as an annual project to rescue from oblivion those persons of potentially historical import whose lives, if not detailed near to or shortly after their ends, would be partially or utterly lost to posterity. "In fine," the editor writes in a prefatory note, "a proper vehicle has hitherto been wanting: for the most obvious and important occurrences, if not communicated while yet recent, soon become either obliterated by time, or obscured by tradition, and leave only a few mutilated facts, or unconnected fragments, for the information of the future narrator, and the regret of posterity." While other countries address this deficiency by publishing collections of "contemporary biography," or "annual obituaries," this editor suggests an annual necrology is also in order. Though the chronological and alphabetical tables, and even the detailed index, which the editor promotes in his preface, are of minimal interest, this volume is made more compelling by the fact that "many important papers, never before submitted to public inspection, are interspersed with the memoirs." Wollstonecraft is in good company in this volume, which also includes biographies of John Dryden, Edmund Burke, Catharine II, Stanislaus, King of Poland, Lavoisier, Theodore, King of Corsica, and many others.
NUC notes only this edition; the first edition came out in 1799.

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