Christy B's Reviews > The Love Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft to Gilbert Imlay

The Love Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft to Gilbert Imlay by Mary Wollstonecraft
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Jun 23, 12

bookshelves: non-fiction, letters
Read in June, 2012

These were absolutely fascinating. The letters are from June 1793 until December 1795.

At first, they're just normal letters with normal niceties from a woman to the man she loves, but they really get good once she starts to get the idea in her head that Imlay's starting to give her the kiss-off. She keeps saying that she'll never write him again, but then he writes her a few lines, to get her off his back, I suspect, and then she continues to write to him.

There is just a slew of emotions coming off these letters: anger, desperation, depression. She really writes some zingers when she's really angry:

December 30, 1794
The common run of men have such an ignoble way of thinking, that, if they debauch their hearts, and prostitute their persons, following perhaps a gust of inebriation, they suppose the wife, slave rather, whom they maintain, has no right to complain, and ought to receive the sultan, whenever he deigns to return, with open arms, though his have been polluted by half an hundred promiscuous amours during his absence.

And then there's October 4, 1795, when it's clear that Mary is beyond distraught:

Do not keep me in suspense-I expect nothing from you, or any human being: my die is cast-I have fortitude enough to determine to do my duty; yet I cannot raise my depressed spirits, or calm my trembling heart-That being who moulded it thus, knows that I am unable to tear up by the roots the propensity to affection which has been the torment of my life-but life will have an end!

And it's obvious, that around here, she start to make illusions to suicide. In a letter written in November of 1795 she says things like:

When you receive this, my burning head will be cold.

But I shall plunge myself into the Thames where there is the least chance of my being snatched from the death I seek.

Obviously, this is written before she does throw herself in the Thames, but is rescued. It felt kind of invasive reading these words. Obviously, these letters weren't written with publication in mind. They are written in a raw, emotional way.

In the next letter, after she tries to drown herself, she says:

I have only to lament, that, when the bitterness of death was past, I was inhumanly brought back to life and misery.

I will stop here, or I'll just continue quoting. This collection of letters is available online for free, and I read them on my nook. I highly recommend them.
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