Wollstonecraft Obituary (1) (1797)

Letter to the Editor, Monthly Magazine 4 (September 1797), 232-33.

Obituary on Mary Wollstonecraft (unsigned)

     On Sunday, the 10th of September, in childbed, Mrs. Godwin, late Mary Woolstonecraft, author of the Vindication of the Rights of Woman, one Volume towards the History of the French Revolution, Travels into Scandinavia, &c. This extraordinary woman, no less distinguished by admirable talents and a masculine tone of understanding, than by active humanity, exquisite sensibility, and endearing qualities of heart, commanding the respect and winning the affections of all who were favored with her friendship and confidence, or who were within the sphere of her influence, may justly be considered as a public loss. Quick to feel, and indignant to [233] resist the iron hand of despotism, whether civil or intellectual, her exertions to awaken in the minds of her oppressed sex a sense of their degradation, and to restore them to the dignity of reason and virtue, were active and incessant: by her impassioned reasoning and glowing eloquence, the fabric of voluptuous prejudice has been shaken to its foundation, and totters towards its fall: while her philosophic mind, taking a wider range, perceived and lamented in the defects of civil institutions, interwoven in their texture, and inseparable from them, the causes of those partial evils, destructive to virtue and happiness, which poison social intercourse and deform domestic life.

     The history of this singular woman (still within a very late period) has been that of one continued struggle with adverse circumstances, cares, and sorrows, compared, in every instance but one (over which humanity sheds its softest tear) with heroic fortitude. A victim to the vices and prejudices of mankind, her ardent, ingenuous, unconquerable spirit, resisted their contagion[,] contemned their injustice, rose superior to injury, and rested firmly on its own resources and powers. Her various excellencies and attractive qualities, at length, triumphing over her malignant destiny, placed her in a situation congenial to her feelings, where her ardent affections and admirable talents found ample exercise. A wife, a mother, surrounded by tender, admiring, intelligent friends, her heart expanded, her powers acquired new vigor, life brightened, and futurity opened a prospect beaming with hope and promise. At this interesting period, a fatal coincidence of events blasted every fair and fond expectation; and death, attended with more than its accustomed pangs and terrors, tore from the hapless offspring, the tender husband, the numerous and zealous friends, from society and from the world, the mother, wife, beloved companion, the ornament of her sex, the enlightened advocate for freedom, and the benevolent friend of human kind.

            "Not friends alone such obsequies deplore;

            "They make mankind the mourners, carry sighs

            "Far as the fatal fame can wing its way."1




1 Lines from Edward Young's The Complaint, "Night the Third."