Form and Content
In The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft, Claire Tomalin draws on information from a wide array of historical sources, including letters, historical documents, and commentaries published during Wollstonecraft’s lifetime. Information about Wollstonecraft’s career as a writer, her philosophical beliefs, and her relationships with loved ones contributes to this multidimensional portrait; the complexities of Wollstonecraft’s character emerge with clarity. Wollstonecraft was a woman much ahead of her time, and her insistence on the rights of women and refusal to succumb to the pressures of a male-dominated society often created difficulties for her.
Tomalin’s precision in collecting historical data on Wollstonecraft contributes to the comprehensive scope of the work. The book opens with a commentary on Woll-stonecraft’s family background. Her grandfather, Edward Wollstonecraft, was a successful weaver, and her father enjoyed the rewards of the craft without having to work extremely hard. The family moved frequently, and Wollstonecraft’s childhood appears to have been somewhat rootless. At the age of fourteen, she did make friends with Jane Arden and attached herself to the security of that prosperous family. Tomalin states that Wollstonecraft’s letters to Arden hint at her unhappiness at home. Her brother Ned, who was one year her elder, had inherited all of their grandfather’s fortune and was everyone’s favorite. As the eldest...
(The entire section is 514 words.)