New reviews added to Women Writers in Review

New reviews added to Women Writers in Review

We’re excited to share that we’ve added six new reviews to Women Writers in Review (WWiR), a collection of close to 700 eighteenth- and nineteenth-century reviews, publication notices, literary histories, and other texts responding to works in Women Writers Online (WWO)

WWiR is always open access and can be used as a resource for research and teaching—or just for fun. 

For those wanting to teach with the collection, we have a series of guides and assignments: 

For an example of research with the texts in WWiR, see Sarah Connell’s Maria Edgeworth in Review, an essay that introduces the varied ways that periodicals discussed questions of national identity, literary theory, women as readers and writers, and the review and publication practices of their time.

As a fun way to introduce WWiR, we’ve included some of our favorite reviews below.

Gender Performance and Maria Edgeworth

Maria Edgeworth received contradictory reviews for her various works. She was accused of being too manly in her writing by some reviewers while others claimed she was too feminine. 

In reviewing Harrington, a Tale; and Ormond, a Tale, the Edinburgh Review wrote that Edgeworth’s “female Gentleness has disabled her from representing, and perhaps from conceiving, the extent of brutal ferocity of which man’s nature is capable.” But in a review of her Tales of a Fashionable Life, Universal Magazine criticized Edgeworth for including a scene “which we should deem wholly unfit for a female pen.” 

The Annual Review accused Edgeworth of treating “her own sex” with “harshness” and “injustice” in The Modern Griselda.  

Surely had any male writer of this enlightened age brought so foul an accusation as that of a general propensity to envy, against the female sex, all women of generous dispositions and cultivated minds would have felt themselves justly hurt at the charge as illiberal, and unfounded; what then must be their feelings when a female, of high literary reputation, and endowed in an eminent degree with the power of pourtraying character, and revealing the human heart, wantonly and apparently without being aware of its heinousness, alludes to this odious vice as an acknowledged failing of the sex, which has the honour to reckon herself among its numbers! … Surely it is ungraceful in a woman to take arms against the liberties of the sisterhood!

Disappointment in Phebe Gibbes

The Monthly Review offered a short but snarky review of Phebe Gibbes’ The Fruitless Repentance: or, the History of Kitty Le Fever.

The very name of Le Fever unavoidably led us to expect something tender, interesting, and affecting; but, alas! how were we disappointed! When we had laboured through these 2 Vols. we thought of Le Fever no more; and nothing but the Fruitless Repentance remained.

Criticism of Mary Robinson

The Anti-Jacobin Review affirmed their poor opinion of Mary Robinson’s writing in a review of her False Friend.

We observed, in our review of Walsingham, that while she confined herself to an exhibition of the surface of life she was not without success; but that when she attempted to dive into moral and political causes, she went far beyond her depth. We also remarked, that she excelled much more in describing feeling than intellect. The novel before us has confirmed us in the notion that we formed, that from Mrs. Robinson we may expect pathetic descriptions much more confidently than either virtuous inculcation, humorous painting, sound reasoning, or just reflection.

There are many more equally lively and illuminating reviews in the collection—we hope you enjoy exploring them! 

Women Writers in Review was created as part of the Cultures of Reception project, which was generously funded by a Collaborative Research grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this project, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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