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Wollstonecraft, Mary) Imlay, Gilbert.

Topographical Description of the Western Territory of North America…


Scarce Book By Gilbert Imlay:
Mary Wollstonecraft's Famed Rogue Lover
And Father Of Their Child
(Wollstonecraft, Mary) Imlay, G[ilbert]. A Topographical Description of the Western Territory of North America; containing a succinct account of the climate, natural history, population, agriculture, manners and customs, with an ample description of the several divisions into which that country is partitioned, and an accurate statement of the various tribes of Indians that inhabit the frontier country. To which is annexed a delineation of the laws and government of the State of Kentucky. .. in a series of letters to a friend in England. London: J. Debrett, 1792.
8vo.; occasional foxing; faded ownership signature on title page; hinges tender; contemporary calf-backed boards, morocco spine label; rubbed. In a specially made cloth slipcase.  
First edition. Clark II, 41; Streeter III, 1522; Howes 112; Sabin 34354; Rader 2002; Graff 2091 (third edition); Field 757 (third edition).
Scarce; the last copy we could trace in the market traded in 1987. Clark notes, "An early account of the western country is contained in this little volume, which was produced by a man who left Kentucky without settling his obligations, who seems to have been involved in efforts to organize a French expedition to take the lower Mississippi Valley, and who treated Mary Wollstonecraft shamelessly." James St. Clair, in his The Godwins and the Shelleys, details their affair: They met at the home of American poet and diplomat Joel Barlow.
Captain Imlay-as he called himself-was European agent of the Scioto Land Company of Ohio and with Barlow was marketing the attractions of the new world…Aged Forty-one when Mary met him in 1793, he was an exotic and mysterious figure. He had fought as an officer in the American War of Independence and was full of stories of his past life. Mary probably  knew that the was now advising the French on their plans for an armed seizure of the Mississippi Valley, perhaps as a secret agent of the United States Government … In his Topographical History… he described in the language of the new philosophy a simple rustic way of life still free from the fetters which priest craft had forged for the human mind … For several months Mary's affair with Imlay thrived. With the downfall of the Girondin Party, however everything changed. Many of Mary's French friends went to the guillotine … Tom Paine, Helen Maria Williams, and other members of the group were thrown into prison…. As a citizen of the United States, Gilbert Imlay was exempt from the new restrictions. He turned to business … In order that Mary could stay with him in France he registered her name with the American counsel as "Mrs. Imlay … in 1794, Mary Wollstonecraft gave birth to a daughter whom they named Frances. (pp. 159-60)
In the summer of 1795, Wollstonecraft traveled to the Scandinavian countries on business for Imlay, but upon her return to meet him in London, it was obvious that he did not mean to continue the relationship. Writing a letter to friends with instructions about Fanny, Wollstonecraft attempted suicide. A year later, she met William Godwin. Windle C1a.

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