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Women, Writing, and Revolution 1790–1827$
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Gary Kelly

Print publication date: 1993

Print ISBN-13: 9780198122722

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198122722.001.0001

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Helen Maria Williams in Post-Revolutionary France

Helen Maria Williams in Post-Revolutionary France

(p.192) 6 Helen Maria Williams in Post-Revolutionary France
Women, Writing, and Revolution 1790–1827

Gary Kelly

Oxford University Press

Revolutionary historiography, to which Williams has contributed greatly, fixes the Revolution as subjective experience, thereby ensuring its transmission over generations and preventing Revolutionary error from being repeated. Indeed, the lessons of Revolutionary history may be disseminated by the very agents who brought that history to an end in defeating Bonaparte. It was a commonplace of Enlightenment historiography that despite the fanaticism, war, destruction, and misery caused by the Crusades, they were a major cause of the Renaissance; Williams projects that commonplace on to the Revolution and turns it into a political hope. This hope is linked to an important thematic and structural device. As in her writings of the 1790s, Williams often compares France with her own native land; but now she distances herself from Britain, which has been accused of considering ‘freedom as an home-production, chartered for her own use’, while consigning the rest of Europe to the conquerors and despots of the Congress of Vienna, which was seen by liberals throughout Europe as an attempt to reverse history. Thus, Williams devotes most of her text to describing political, religious, and intellectual rights now enjoyed by the French because of the Revolution and Louis XVIII's ‘Charter’, but still being denied to the British people by their government.

Keywords:   Revolution, Congress of Vienna, feminism, feminization, Revolutionary history

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