Martineau, Harriet

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.
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Martineau, Harriet

Harriet Martineau (mär´tĬnō), 1802–76, English author. A journalist rather than a writer of literature, she was an enormously popular author. Her success is the more remarkable since she was deaf from childhood and the victim of various other illnesses throughout her life. The sister of the Unitarian minister James Martineau, she began her career writing articles on religious subjects. Her fame spread with Illustrations of Political Economy (9 vol., 1832–34) and Illustrations of Taxation (1834), two series of stories interpreting classical economics to the layman. After a visit to the United States in 1834, she became an advocate for the abolition of slavery and wrote several unflattering works on the American way of life, including Society in America (1837) and Retrospect of Western Travel (1838). Her later writings include Deerbrook (1839), a novel; The Playfellow (4 vol., 1841), tales for children; Letters on Mesmerism (1845); The Positive Philosophy of Auguste Comte (1853); and a very candid autobiography (1877), containing commentaries on the literary figures of her day.

See biography by V. Wheatley (1957); study by R. K. Webb (1960).

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