London: Seeley, Burnside, and Seeley, . First edition. Original publisher's cloth binding stamped in blind with gilt to spine. Yellow endpapers. Measuring 185 x 120mm and collating complete: , xliv, 399, . Gentle bumps to corners and small split to cloth of rear joint near crown with all hinges and joints sound. Bookplate of Henry Birbeck and bookseller's ticket of Josiah Fletcher to front pastedown; excess bookplate glue opposite, on front endpaper. Light scattered foxing throughout, with some pages unevenly cut with no loss to text. Scarce institutionally and in trade, the present is the only copy on the market and we did not locate any copies in the modern auction record.
"In appraising the role of female writers in the tradition of social literature, the appropriate context includes two elements: the concept of intervention and the interest women had in intervention" (Kestner). As cottage industries began shifting toward mass production and as class divisions widened, women's lives were impacted. For writers like Charlotte Tonna, a "'feminine' concern with work conditions...was not separable from a 'feminist' concern with domestic litigation...women writers like her could identify with workers" who faced limited access to education or economic discrimination (Kestner). Mass production and distribution of print facilitated the spread of information; and those women who recognized their futures as tied up in questions of equality had greater access to government reports and to the basic education that allowed them to interpret the information. Unable to vote or lobby in government, writing social literature gave women a means for participating in the legislative process.
Released in 1843, The Perils of the Nation was Tonna's call to all people but to women especially to recognize and act on the devastating class divisions that industrialization was creating. The nation could not remain whole, she argued, when the gap between rich and poor became a chasm so wide as to create two cultures; if the nation's upper classes relied on the participation of its lower classes in maintaining a healthy society, then those lower classes must be provided adequate healthcare, education, and pay. Detailed chapters account for the Manufacturing Poor, the Mining Poor, and the Commercial and Agricultural Poor; she outlines the lack of sanitary conditions and schools. And before concluding, she importantly urged women to see that these social problems could not simply be left to men. "Women, by becoming familiar with social conditions, could influence their voting husbands, fathers, and brothers to meliorate conditions" and to use their own capital as an important purchasing demographic to support those in need as well as those organizations that sought to pay fair wages and provide aid (Kastner). (Item #5064)