…but this time in my REAL mailbox! I am thrilled to find in the mail today a book I ordered, titled Brilliant Women: 18th-Century Bluestockings, a book published to accompany the exhibition of the same name held at the National Portrait Gallery, London, from March 13 – June 15, 2008. Unhappily not in London to see this exhibit, I find that this book must suffice…and a quick skim through its pages proves it will not disappoint. Written by Elizabeth Eger and Lucy Peltz, these are the chapters:
- The Bluestocking Circle: friendship, patronage and learning
- Living Muses: constructing and celebrating the professional woman in literature and the arts
- ‘A Revolution in Female Manners’: women, politics, and reputation in the late 18th-century
- The Bluestocking Legacy
and all accompanied by the fabulous portraits of the women of the circle and paintings of their time: Mary Wollstonecraft, Hannah More, Catharine Macauley, Madame de Stael, Elizabeth Monatgu, Elizabeth Vesey, Frances Boscawen, Anna Seward, Elizabeth Carter, Maria Edgeworth, Mary Shelley, Fanny Burney, and many more.
Dear Jane shows up in the last chapter, with the portrait by Cassandra displayed (this likeness is housed in the National Portrait Gallery), and a short paragraph on Austen’s novel writing and her references to it in Northanger Abbey (though the writers make the oft-published mistake of calling NA her “earliest” work), and the importance of Austen writing in the wake of the changing times wrought by the Bluestockings.
So this book heads to the top of my already toppling TBR pile… this needs a close reading and time to savor the lovely illustrations!
Further reading: see my previous post on the “Bluestockings” where there are several links to more information.