Readings on Poetry
London: R. Hunter, 1816.
London: R. Hunter, 1816. First edition. Contemporary roan over marbled boards with remnants of the original paper label. All edges speckled blue. Measuring 135 x 85 mm and collating complete: xxviii, 213, [11, publisher's adverts]. A square, solid copy with boards and spine generally rubbed and worn. Internally pleasing, with contemporary ownership signature of A. D. King to front pastedown and annotation in the same hand to the rear endpaper verso; minor spotting to outer margin of preliminaries and short closed tear to outer margin of second advert leaf, with all text legible. In all a pleasing copy of a scarce book, which has only sold twice at auction since 1972. The present is the only example on the market.
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. With an early ownership signature that could belong to a reader of any sex, it is a testament to how these ideas dispelled patriarchal notions to the benefit of all. (Item #5493)