‘The enlightened energy of parental affection’: post-revolutionary schemes of education

Richard De Ritter

in Imagining women readers, 1789-1820

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print February 2014 | ISBN: 9780719090332
Published online January 2015 | e-ISBN: 9781781707241 | DOI:
‘The enlightened energy of parental affection’: post-revolutionary schemes of education

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This chapter addresses the relationship between acts of reading and British responses to the French Revolution. In the work of authors such as Maria Edgeworth, Elizabeth Hamilton, William Godwin and Mary Hays, education offers the means through which ideas about social progress can be brought to fruition. However, finding the most appropriate method of ensuring the transmission of knowledge from one generation to another proves a sensitive affair, raising questions about the ethics of parental authority. This chapter is particularly concerned with the extent to which children and young women were granted what Godwin describes in The Enquirer as ‘choice in reading’. While Godwin was attacked for advocating a ‘system of indiscriminate reading’, the prohibition of particular texts only serves to render them more attractive to readers. For the writers discussed, domestic scenes of reading become the testing ground for exploring the limits of individual liberty.

Keywords: Reading; French Revolution; Parent/child relations; Curiosity; Prohibition; Maria Edgeworth; William Godwin; Mary Hays; Elizabeth Hamilton

Chapter.  15396 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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