Imitation. Affectionately inscribed by the Author to her sister, Mrs. Basil Montagu
London: Printed for Darton, Harvey, and Darton, 1817.
London: Printed for Darton, Harvey, and Darton, 1817. First edition. Publisher's quarter roan over marbled boards with gilt to spine. Measuring 135 x 80mm and collating complete including frontis: , 216. A charming example, with gentle bumps to corners and binding firm; rebacked with original spine laid down. Contemporary gift inscription to recto of frontis: "Fanny Tomkinson given her by Miss Morris. Febry 16th 1824." Slight offsetting to title and occasional foxing, but overall a fresh, unmarked example. Scarce institutionally and in trade, we have located 8 examples in OCLC. The present is the only copy currently on the market.
An author of pedagogical texts and instructional novels, including Thoughts on Education, Maria Benson infused even her fictional work with lessons that encouraged women's learning. Following the adventures of Agatha Torrington, Imitation suggests that while girls should to some extent learn social graces and good behavior from the women around them, copying such behaviors is insufficient and can lead to danger. Prone to mimicking any and everything as a child, Agatha initially has no real sense of taste or even of self; she instead follows whimsically along copying other girls' clothes and actions. Notably, blame does not fall on Agatha, but on a wider system. She had been taught by her mother, and no one "informed Mrs. Torrington that she was not a proper person to educate the little Agatha...Her own education had been such...as to render her very unsuitable for an undertaking so arduous as the education of a child." This situation is contrasted against that of an orphaned neighbor; raised by her sensible grandparents, this little girl was taught in a Lancastrian school, gained self-knowledge and by ten was already well-read. As the two girls grow, Benson's point is quite clear: a society that discourages women's education has poor outcomes for all, and to that end, all girls and women should learn regardless of their future roles. (Item #5735)