A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature/Godwin, Mrs. Mary

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Godwin, Mrs. Mary (WOLLSTONECRAFT) (1759-1797). -- Miscellaneous writer, was of Irish extraction. Her f. was a spend-thrift of bad habits, and at 19 Mary left home to make her way in the world. Her next ten years were spent as companion to a lady, in teaching a school at Newington Green, and as governess in the family of Lord Kingsborough. In 1784 she assisted her sister to escape from a husband who ill-treated her. In 1788 she took to translating, and became literary adviser to Johnson the publisher, through whom she became known to many of the literary people of the day, as well as to certain Radicals, including Godwin, Paine, Priestly, and Fuseli, the painter. She then, 1792, went to Paris, where she met Captain Imlay, with whom she formed a connection, the fruit of which was her daughter Fanny. Captain Imlay having deserted her, she tried to commit suicide at Putney Bridge, but was rescued. Thereafter she resumed her literary labours, and lived with W. Godwin, who married her in 1797. Their dau., Mary, whose birth she did not survive, became the second wife of Shelley. Her chief original writings are a Reply to Burke's Reflections on the French Revolution (1791), Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792), and Original Stories for Children, illustrated by W. Blake. Her Vindication received much adverse criticism on account of its extreme positions and over-plainness of speech.