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Wollstonecraft, Mary.

Vindication of the Rights of Men, A.


[Wollstonecraft, Mary.] A Vindication of the Rights of Men, in a letter to the Right Honourable Edmund Burke; occasioned by His Reflections on the Revolution in France. London: Printed for J. Johnson, 1790.
8vo.; full calf; red morocco leather spine label stamped in gilt. In a specially made quarter-morocco slipcase.
First edition of Wollstonecraft's scarce reply to Burke's attack on Price published in Reflections on the Revolution in France, which ultimately engendered her canonical Vindication of the Rights of Woman. In her first Vindication Wollstonecraft identified herself with democracy and protested the trivialization of women in British culture, themes which she would explore at greater length in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman two years later. Wollstonecraft's classic feminist text, a chaotically written but rhetorically powerful plea for fundamental change in society's perception of women's function, place, and potential, was dedicated to Tallyrand in the vain hope of influencing legislation on women's education then before the French Assembly. The work was substantially longer than the Vindication of the Rights of Man, and a second volume was even planned (the text concludes, "End of Vol. I"), but no companion volume ever appeared. Windle A4a.
This work went through three quick printings-all uncommon-but in its first it is one of Wollstonecraft's most elusive works, the small edition consumed by readers longing for rhetoric generated by debate about the French Revolution.
Her preliminary "advertisement," identifying the well-spring of this tirade, merits quoting in full:
Mr. Burke's Reflections on the French Revolution first engaged my attention as the transient topic of the day; and reading it more for amusement than information, my indignation was roused by the sophistical arguments, that every moment crossed me, in the questionable shape of natural feelings and common sense.
Many pages of the following letter were the effusions of the moment; but, swelling imperceptibly to a considerable size, the idea was suggested of publishing a short vindication of the Rights of Men. But not having leisure or patience to follow this desultory writer through all the devious tracks in which he fancy started fresh game, I have confined my strictures, in a great measure, to the grand principles at which he has leveled many ingenious arguments in a very specious garb.

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