Martineau, Harriet

Harriet Martineau (1802-76) was a member of a prominent Unitarian family from Norwich that included her brother, the Rev. James Martineau (1805-1900). She was a prolific writer, best known for her Illustrations of Political Economy, 9 vols (1832-34), her novels Deerbrook (1839) and The Hour and the Man (1841), various collections of stories for children, and Life in the Sick-Room (1844) and Household Education (1844), as well as pamphlets on slavery and other social issues. She lived largely as an invalid between 1839 and 1844 at Tynemouth, near Newcastle, suffering from a uterine tumour. In 1844 she moved to Ambleside, in the Lake District, and built a cottage called "the Knoll" (which still remains today). She claimed to have been completely healed in 1844 by means of Mesmerism (though not everyone agreed, especially William Wordsworth and HCR!). She published Letters on Mesmerismin 1845, followed byEastern Life, Past and Present, 3 vols (1848), History of the Thirty Years’ Peace, 2 vols (1849-50), Complete Guide to the Lakes(rival to Wordsworth’s Guide) (1855), and numerous contributions to Dicken’s Household Words. She moved toward agnosticism in ways that many found difficult to tolerate. Some of her views were expressed in Letters on the Laws of Man’s Nature and Development(1851), letters that passed between her and Henry Atkinson. Martineau became such an advocate of Mesmerism that it clearly tinged her religious beliefs, becoming in essence a pseudo-religion of its own to her. Upon her arrival in the Lakes, Wordsworth thought she would prove ‘a highly interesting neighbour and a good deal more’, he wrote to Miss Fenwick on 25 January 1845. Of Mrs Wordsworth, Harriet wrote in 1846: “His wife is perfectly charming, & the very angel he should have to tend him. His life is a most serene & happy one on the whole … But to secure this everybody must be punctual, the fire must be bright & all go orderly as his angel takes care that every thing shall as far as it depends on her – he goes every day to Miss Fenwick … gives her a smacking kiss, & sits down before her fire to open his mind– Think what she could tell if she survives him – He does me the honour … to be fond of me’ (8; taken from Morley, Correspondence with Wordsworth Circle, 2: 620-22). Harriet wrote an obituary tribute to Mary Wordsworth in Biographical Sketches, pp. 402-08. Both Martineau and Wordsworth supported National Education and abuses of the factory system. As Fielding notes, by 1845 Martineau stood for the future as Wordsworth did for the past, much like Thomas Arnold and Matthew Arnold, his son, differed in their perspectives. Martineau referred to Thomas Arnold as having great ‘earnestness’ (14). See Kenneth J. Fielding, William Wordsworth and Harriet Martineau(n.p.: Rydal Church Trust, 2002).