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Harriet Martineau   By:

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Famous Women.


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GEORGE ELIOT. By Miss Blind. EMILY BRONTË. By Miss Robinson. GEORGE SAND. By Miss Thomas. MARY LAMB. By Mrs. Gilchrist. MARGARET FULLER. By Julia Ward Howe. MARIA EDGEWORTH. By Miss Zimmern. ELIZABETH FRY. By Mrs. E. R. Pitman. THE COUNTESS OF ALBANY. By Vernon Lee. MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT. By Mrs. E. R. Pennell. HARRIET MARTINEAU. By Mrs. F. Fenwick Miller. RACHEL. By Mrs. Nina H. Kennard. MADAME ROLAND. By Mathilde Blind. SUSANNA WESLEY. By Eliza Clarke. MARGARET OF ANGOULÊME. By Miss Robinson. MRS. SIDDONS. By Mrs. Nina H. Kennard. MADAME DE STAËL. By Bella Duffy.

[Illustration: FAMOUS WOMEN]




Copyright, 1884 , BY ROBERTS BROTHERS.



The material for this biographical and critical sketch of Harriet Martineau and her works has been drawn from a variety of sources. Some of it is quite new. Her own Autobiography was completed in 1855; and there has not hitherto been anything at all worth calling a record of the twenty one years during which she lived and worked after that date. Even as regards the earlier period, although, of course I have drawn largely for facts upon the Autobiography , yet I have found much that is new to relate. For some information and hints about this period I am indebted to her relatives of her own generation, Dr. James Martineau, and Mrs. Henry Turner, of Nottingham, as well as to one or two others. With reference to the latest twenty one years of her life, my record is entirely fresh, though necessarily brief. Mrs. Chapman, of Boston, U.S.A., has written a volume in completion of the Autobiography , which should have covered this later period; but her account is little more than a repetition, in a peculiar style, of the story that Miss Martineau herself had told, and leaves the later work of the life without systematic record. As a well known critic remarked in Macmillan "This volume is one more illustration of the folly of intrusting the composition of biography to persons who have only the wholly irrelevant claim of intimate friendship." But it should be remembered that when Miss Martineau committed to Mrs. Chapman the task of writing a memorial sketch, and when the latter accepted the undertaking, both of them believed that the life and work of the subject of it were practically over. I have reason to know that if Harriet Martineau had supposed it to be even remotely possible that so much of her life remained to be spent and recorded, she would have chosen some one more skilled in literature, and more closely acquainted with English literary and political affairs, to complete her "Life." Having once asked Mrs. Chapman to fulfill the task, however, Harriet Martineau was too loyal and generous a friend to remove it from her charge; and Mrs. Chapman, on her side, while continually begging instructions from her subject as to what she was to say, and while doubtless aware that she would not be adequate to the undertaking which had grown so since she accepted it, yet would not throw it off her hands. But her volume is in no degree a record of those last years, which constitute nearly a third of Harriet Martineau's whole life. I have had to seek facts and impressions about that period almost entirely from other sources.

My deepest obligations are due, and must be first expressed, to Mr. Henry G. Atkinson, the dearest friend of Harriet Martineau's maturity. It is commonly known that she forbade, by her will, the publication of her private letters; but she showed her supreme faith in and value for her friend, Mr. Atkinson, by specially exempting him from such prohibition. Her objection to the publication of letters was made on general grounds. Her own letters are singularly beautiful specimens of their class; and she declared that she would not mind if every word that ever she wrote were published; but she looked upon it as a duty to uphold the principle that letters should be held sacred confidences, just as all honorable people hold private conversations, not to be published without leave... Continue reading book >>

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