Monday, December 1, 2008

Letters for Literary Ladies

I thought it was time to include a post about this, since it gives my blog its name! Letters for Literary Ladies, by Maria Edgeworth, is basically a collection of letters between two women, Julia and Caroline. However, one woman, Julia, only writes one letter. To put things very simply, Julia might stand for "sensibility", while Caroline stands for "sense". So, of course, Julia runs into all sorts of relationship disasters, while Caroline's judgment is vindicated and she leads a virtuous life. It's only a short work, and most of the letters are merely lectures by Caroline to Julia about the decisions she is making or has made. It's not as boring as it sounds, however, and it's a pretty interesting glimpse of the kinds of concerns that Maria Edgeworth would revisit in her later fiction. While Julia is treated harshly, she is allowed to repent at the end of the novel, in typical eighteenth-century fashion.

However, I enjoyed the Essay on the Noble Science of Self-Justification a lot more. It's basically a satirical essay instructing women on various ways to manipulate their husbands. While it's supposed to be an indictment of those kinds of women, and that way of thinking, it's actually quite hilarious.

As Letters for Literary Ladies is short and obviously didactic, I doubt it has much contemporary appeal, but it's a must for anybody at all interested in Maria Edgeworth. Although definitely not as fun as Belinda.

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