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By Elizabeth Eger (auth.)

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Extra info for Bluestockings: Women of Reason from Enlightenment to Romanticism

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However, she never makes that link herself in the text, preferring to use the case of the working man of industry rather than admit women’s professional interest. 56 Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) was one of the few contemporary educational works to raise the issue of women’s professional life: How many women thus waste life away the prey of discontent, who might have practised as physicians, regulated a farm, managed a shop, and stood erect, supported by their own industry, instead of hanging their heads surcharged with the dew of sensibility.

Both Johnson and Richardson strongly encouraged her in writing her most celebrated novel, The Female Quixote (1752). Arabella, the novel’s heroine, is an avid reader of romances, the contents of which she embraces rather too literally. While the novel acted as a satirical warning against the immoral effects of romance, it also revealed in a subtle and sophisticated light the paradoxical effects of reading. Lennox was also the first person to research the sources for Shakespeare’s plays, which she anthologised with critical remarks in her Shakespear Illustrated in 1753, highlighting the important role of romances in the construction of his plots.

A replica engraving of the painting, by Raphael Morghen, was widely circulated. 12 References to a lost and glorious past, these paintings have a symbolic power that is not related to the position of contemporary women but rather celebrates an aesthetic ideal, an Arcadian idyll. Today, the muses are still evocative of the ‘timeless value’ of culture to society. Few critics have considered the implications of the fact that the muses, a resonant image of cultural harmony, are female. 13 We have indeed, for the most part lost a sense of the individual characters and functions of the muses, let alone the possibility that they might refer to real women.

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