Thursday, August 15, 2013

Three Free Books: Overlooked Women

Recollections of a Tour Made in Scotland A.D. 1803 Dorothy Wordsworth (1771–1855) - The neglected sister of the Romantic poet William Wordsworth, Dorothy Wordsworth was a well-educated writer and poet who kept journals of her travels. These were unpublished until after her death, but give insight into her walks with her brother and her keen interest in the natural world.
Dorothy Wordsworth
Dorothy Wordsworth
The Works of Aphra Behn Aphra Behn (1640–1689) - Aphra Behn's plays were criticized during her lifetime because what she wrote wasn't considered proper for a woman in 17th century England (her homoerotic themes may have had something to do with that). This didn't keep her from maintaining herself on her writing after her husband's death. That, and of course the spying she did for the ill-fated monarch Charles II (though he failed to pay her and she landed in debtor's prison after her service). Behn is best known today for her short novel Oroonoko, about an enslaved African prince who gains his freedom. The story is a precursor to Rousseau's idea of the "noble savage," but is actually one of the first English novels to positively depict an African protagonist. There are plenty of good reasons to check out Behn's plays, poetry, and novel.
Aphra Behn
Letters of the Right Honourable Lady Mary Wortley Montagu Lady Mary Wortley Montagu ( 1689–1762) - Lady Montagu was an aristocrat most famous for her marvelous and witty "Turkish Embassy Letters" (that's this collection), though she also stood toe-to-toe with the poets of her day and wrote satirical attacks on Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope (the latter of whom she accused of plagiarizing her verses). The lady had some serious mental muscle. She was also a bit of a snob and estranged most of her friends before her death. But she was self-taught, being denied the classical education of contemporary males, and her letters are worth reading for a look into the lives of aristocrats of her era, as well as for remembering a great writer and poet.
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
Lady Montagu


  1. I ADORE old travel memoirs written by lady travelers-- my favorite's Isabella Bird, actually, she went everywhere and wrote about all of it. Thanks for this post! I look forward to reading Dorothy Wordsworth in particular. :D

    -- Anastasia @ Here There Be Books

  2. Bird's book "A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains" has been sitting on my shelf for years now. I've heard such great things about it!