Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lyndall Gordon on Mary and the Unitarians

Harris Manchester College, via WikiCommons

O frabjous day! Both the day I learned of this, and the day I am now looking forward to!

Biographer Lyndall Gordon will be speaking next month on Mary Wollstonecraft's "life and times and Unitarian connections". I am particularly intrigued by this, because it ties into the couple of years Mary spent at Newington Green, hanging out with the Rational Dissenters, indeed, being life-transformingly influenced by that community, but never actually joining them. Richard Price was the minister there, fantastically well-connected, and he took a shine to her. The fairy godmother who helped her set up in the first place was Mrs Burgh, widow of the educationalist. Through that network she met Joseph Johnson, who was to publish her for the rest of her curtailed life. Between those three and their dinner tables, Mary had the opportunity to meet  many Unitarian thinkers, social reformers, writers, and activists.

Lyndall Gordon, in case you are having trouble keeping your biographers straight, is the author of Vindication: A Life of Mary WollstonecraftThat's the book that finally nails Imlay's missing treasure ship: what a researcher she is!

The place chosen for this talk is the chapel of Harris Manchester College, confusingly (because this is England, heavy with history) in Oxford. The college started life as a Dissenting Academy just about the same time as Mary was running her school on the green, and still trains people -- for the past century, women as well as men -- for ministry within the Unitarian Church.

Hope to see some of you there.
Sunday 22nd May After morning service at 11 am in the chapel of Harris Manchester College (Mansfield Road, Oxford, OX1 3TD), there will be a talk at 1 pm by Lyndall Gordon, the author of Vindication: A Life of Mary Wollstonecraftconcerning the life and times and Unitarian connections of the 18th-century feminist (wife of William Godwin, mother of Mary Shelley, and “the foremother of much modern thinking about education and human rights, as well as about women's rights, female sexuality and the institution of marriage"). Please bring your own sandwich lunch; for directions to the college, consult the Chapel Society website at; for advice on parking, ring the Pulpit Secretary on 07879 488785.

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