London: Printed for W. Brown in the Strand, 1778. First edition. Octavo (measures 190 x 108mm). Original paper wrappers with contemporary paper label to spine. Corners bumped and spine mildly soiled. Front wrapper starting but still holding; evidence of early strengthening to external joints. Bookplate of William Wilshere of Huntcin to verso of front wrapper. Collates , v, , ix, , 300: complete. While ESTC notes a frontis portrait, our research indicates that this has been carried over from the Harvard copy, which contains an inserted frontis from the 1780 second edition; of the other known copies, we have confirmed that none have a frontis. So rare on the market and in institutions that it was long deemed "lost" by scholars, ESTC lists this title at only 4 libraries worldwide and it has never before appeared at auction.
Hailed as the "first collective biography of women by a named English woman writer," Sketches featured French writers but was designed for an English audience (Cambridge Guide). This choice was designed both as a critique against the English education system, for holding back female talent, as well as a means for inspiring a greater number of English women to produce quality literature akin to what was being published on the Continent. Thicknesse herself had benefited from some education. A member of an upper echelon family, she later became a singer and musician, "calling on the talents God gave me" to support herself prior to her marriage (Feminist Companion). Her first published book, released in 1761, focused on the field of music instruction; but it was with the current work, released 17 years later, that she established her literary reputation. This first edition was notably dedicated to famed Bluestocking Elizabeth Carter, through whose scholarly knowledge the Epicetus was first translated into English; and she further mentions contemporaries including Elizabeth Montagu and Anna Laetitia Barbauld. Thus, though Thicknesse focuses her praise on French writers such as Marguerite de Navarre, Louse Labe, and Madame de Lafayette, she also encourages her readers to find authors of significance among the Bluestockings publishing in their own language. Thicknesse's work inspired a new generation of novelists and poets in the UK; and her biography served as a model for Mary Hays and Julia Kavanagh, who would continue her legacy of documenting English and French women's contributions to the canon.
ESTC N23456. The Feminist Companion to Literature in English 1072. (Item #2542)