The Republican Virago: The Life and Times of Catharine Macaulay, Historian

The Republican Virago: The Life and Times of Catharine Macaulay, Historian

The Republican Virago: The Life and Times of Catharine Macaulay, Historian

The Republican Virago: The Life and Times of Catharine Macaulay, Historian

Synopsis

Catharine Macaulay represented everything the eighteenth century abhorred in a woman. She was learned, politically-minded, and actively engaged with public and philosophical issues of the day. Her private life, and especially her "imprudent" second marriage to a man twenty-six years her junior, led to much malicious gossip. Yet in her lifetime she also won considerable fame as the author of an eight-volume history of England in the seventeenth century, a republican, a follower of John Wilkes, and a political polemicist who engaged with Edmund Burke. She not only influenced the nature of eighteenth-century radicalism in England, but also played an important contributory role in shaping American revolution ideology. Among her American friends and correspondents were Mercy Otis Warren, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Ezra Stiles, and George Washington. Long before the Revolution, she was also closely concerned with events in France. Both Mirabeau and Brissot were familiar with her History and much influenced by it; translated into French it was welcomed by patriots as an effective response to the counter-revolutionary influence of Hume's history. The first major biographical study of this remarkable and influential figure, this book should not be ignored by anyone interested in English radicalism or revolutionary politics.

Excerpt

My interest in Catharine Macaulay dates from many years ago. I had come across several tantalizingly brief references to her and longed to discover more. It proved difficult. Most historians of the eighteenth century omit all mention of her. Yet curiously she is one of the relatively few women included in the Dictionary of National Biography. What most intrigued me was that she seemed the exception to all the rules laid down for the behaviour and activities appropriate for women in her period. When I began to read her History, and, excited by what I found, started to talk about this remarkable republican historian of the seventeenth century, my husband began to show interest. Through his knowledge of the seventeenth century I grew to appreciate her more. Together we wrote an article on her. the idea of a biography of her had crossed my mind but was given up when I discovered there were no family papers extant and that the available material on her was both fragmentary and anecdotal. Thereafter many things intervened to displace her from my mind until in 1988 a portrait of Catharine Macaulay attracted the attention of two visitors to a Yorkshire country house. This book is the result.

Many people have given generously of their time, their own collected material and their ideas. Among them is the late Dr Richard Hunt of the Bodleian Library, who was responsible for first awakening my interest in Catharine Macaulay. the late Professor David Williams was full of enthusiasm for a study of her life and extremely useful in providing a multitude of references in the early stages. Miss Margaret Sawbridge could not have been more helpful in response to my inquiries about the Sawbridge family-and in her offer of illustrative material. Dr Mary Prior, Dr Roger Richardson, and Professor Peter Marshall read sections of the book and provided invaluable criticisms. I am also indebted to Professor Marshall for allowing me to use his notes on the manuscript Hollis diary. Dr John Walsh has been a most generous source of advice and material. in a variety of ways Professor Ian Christie, Dr Roger Lonsdale, Dr Desmond Neill, Peter Brown, Dr Susan Staves, and Marcus Rediker have all contributed to . . .

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