This book is the first to look at Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's achievement as a vital figure in the women's literary tradition. Robert Halsband's book on her life, the sixth this century and published in 1956, was the first to apply scholarly techniques to establishing the facts. The inaccurate accounts given before Halsband testify to Lady Mary's compelling interest as a woman who wrote, travelled, campaigned publicly for medical advance, gossiped, and was involved in high-profile literary quarrels. Knowledge of her life has made considerable gains since Halsband, as understanding of the issues involved in trying to move between the roles of proper lady and woman writer has increased enormously. This life fruitfully exploits the tension between literary history and feminist reading. Isobel Grundy highlights Montagu's adolescent longing for literary fame, her growing understanding of the implications of this for gender and class imperatives, the frustrations and concessions involved in her collaborations with male writers, the punitive responses of society, the gaps at every stage of her life between her ascertainable circumstances and her construction of herself in letters and other writings. The book situates those writings in relation to her own theorizing and her very wide reading in women's texts as well as men's. Finally, it looks at a range of contemporary and near-contemporary responses.
Isobel Grundy is Henry Marshall Tory Professor at the University of Alberta, Canada.
This is the first authoritative biography in more than 40 years, and the first to make use of all the scholarly work which, in the intervening period, has definitively established Montagu as perhaps the most significant woman writer between Aphra Behn and Jane Austen.../ ... the product of an enormous amount of scholarship. Its detail... is truly prodigious, .../ ... the interest of the narrative never slackens .../ It deserves to be praised to the skies./ Mark Bostridge Independent on Sunday, 09/05/99 (Culture section)
Isobel Grundy has given us a worthy portrait of a brilliant woman set in a brilliant era./ Margot Lawrence, Catholic Herald, 07/05/99.
... marvellous historical insights and anecdotes./ Jackie Wullschlager, Weekend FT. date?
This is an important book.../ ... she has greatly enlarged our understanding both of Lady Mary and the century in which she lived./ Ian McIntyre, The Times, 13/05/99
The result is a great ITristam ShandyI of a biography, short on analysis, but richly detailed on the life and adventures of a most singular woman./ John Adamson, The Sunday Telegraph, 02/05/99.
exemplary... biography/ Robert O'Byrne, The Irish Times (Dublin) , 15/05/99.
It has taken a good deal of patient spadework by biographer Isobel Grundy to piece together a life of one of the most fascinating figures of the 18th century./ The Week, 22/05/99
masssive, detailed and warmly approving biography./ ... Isobel Grundy has managed over 600 pages of anecdotal life of a woman as charismatic as she was beautiful./ Christine Barker, Birmingham Post, 22/05/99.
Isobel Grundy, ... , has spent years editing and collating Lady Mary's writing. This biography is literally the product of a life-time's work. It is the definitive study of an outstanding 18th-century adventurer and poet./ At nearly 700 pages, this is an exhaustive, even daunting, biography, but well worth the effort. / Amanda Foreman, The Independent, Weekend Review, 08/05/99.
Isobel Grundy's intelligent and superbly detailed biography./ ... her biography is, in part, a fascinating account of her rivalrous manuscript culture./ Grundy's book tells of an intellectually and emotionally restless character, whose audacity could seem self-destructive even to herself./ Hers was a life of extraordinary freedom and limitation, and this exemplary biography sees both. / John Mullan, The Guardian, 01/05/99