London: R. Hunter, 1816. First edition. Contemporary roan over marbled boards measuring 89 x 133mm. Spine rebacked and extremities bumped with some loss to upper rear corner, but in all a charming example. Early ownership signature of K. Isabella Carl to front pastedown. Collates complete: xxviii, 213, [11, publisher's adverts]. Light foxing throughout, largely limited to preliminaries; in all a pleasing copy of a scarce book, which is the only copy on the market. With the exception of the present copy (Bloomsbury Auctions, 2009), Readings on Poetry has only sold at auction on one other occasion since 1972.
While the daughter-father duo responsible for this work consider the poetic educations of both sexes, Maria was largely responsible for the book's lessons and shaped it as a resource for mothers and daughters who hadn't the privilege of a literary education (Slade). Her mark can be seen in Readings on Poetry much as it can be in Practical Education. Yet here, eighteen years later, she makes a more overt argument for the personal and social need of educating women. "The same means which form a masculine understanding will give strength to the female judgement and should therefore be employed with the same steadiness in the education of young women." With an understanding for both parents' potential conservative objections, Maria also addresses these. "Nor need mothers feel any apprehension that thus strengthening the understandings of their daughters should injure that elegance and grace which are undoubtedly the charms of women...Men no longer desire that women should be kept in ignorance, and women no longer find it necessary to be, or to affect to be uninformed in order to fascinate." On the surface, her justification suggests that women's right to education is based on what men find attractive in possible mates. But below the surface, by allaying the concerns of parents that their intelligent and trained daughters will be unmarriageable, she opens the door to their studying a variety of fields not limited to the present study of poetry. The present copy, owned by a woman, shows meaningful evidence that girls and women were accessing this book for their own benefit. (Item #3196)