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Letters Written in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  782 ratings  ·  90 reviews
The brilliant travel narrative by the author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman that inspired the Romantic poets William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

While best remembered for her revolutionary work, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), renowned feminist, author, and thinker Mary Wollstonecraft’s most popular book during her lifetime was a remarkabl
ebook, New Edition, 256 pages
Published July 1st 2014 by Restless Books (first published 1795)
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I probably bought this book because of its cover, not the only time I've bought a book purely on the strength of Caspar David Friedrich.

A Short Residence in Sweden, Norway & Denmark is written in the form of twenty-five letters, possibly originally composed as a travel journal, in places it seems that they are addressed to Gilbert Imlay, who had been more or less her husband, and published in 1796, Mary Wollstonecraft's intention was simply to endeavour to give a just view of the present state
Jun 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"It is so delightful to love our fellow-creatures, and meet the honest affections as they break forth. Still, my good friend, I begin to think that I should not like to live continually in the country with people whose minds have such a narrow range." (p.15)

"...I feel more than a mother's fondness and anxiety when I reflect on the dependent and oppressed state of her sex. I dread lest she should be forced to sacrifice her heart to her principles, or principles to her heart." (p.24)

"Marguerite an
A series of 25 letters sent by proto-feminist Mary Wollstonecraft to her ex-lover Gilbert Imlay, describing a visit to Scandinavia in 1797. (The last few letters are written from north-west Germany). Wollstonecraft made this journey to represent Imlay in a dispute he had with business contacts, presumably in the hope of winning back his affections. She travelled with her maidservant and with her baby daughter Fanny Imlay.

This collection contains only the letters sent by Wollstonecraft to Imlay,
Dec 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jim by: Jan-Maat

I read this one based on a friend's review of another edition. It is not my normal reading fare and I was quite pleased with what I found in these pages.

It was obvious from the start that Wollstonecraft was a very strong and determined woman, independent and intelligent to the max. The book is based on letters she wrote to her lover/common-law husband whose business interests she was pursuing during her travels in the Scandinavian countries. I doubt that she intended that they be published.

The art of travel is only a branch of the art of thinking.
Mary Wollstonecraft 1790

A hybrid of letters, travel writing, and commentary on society, political organization, women's rights, nature, and more, this was Wollstonecraft's most popular work during her own lifetime, and provided her with much-needed income during a time she was struggling with the challenges of being a single mother in late eighteenth-century England.

It is worth spending some time learning more about Wollstonecraft's life
Feb 06, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars

This was interesting to me
A/ because of whom it was written by
B/ because I was reading it relating to a group theme.

It was interesting reading about life and travel more than 200 years ago. Wollstonecraft had an astute eye for detail. There are many digressions in the book, some of more interest than others.
Apr 05, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have a tricky relationship with Mary Wollstonecraft. Although I have great admiration for her work and ideas, I don't actually like reading her books. I've read fiction, non-fiction and now this collection of letters. This was my favourite so far, as I felt we got a small glimpse of her private life and convictions, in-between a lot of recounting of Scandinavian life and landscapes. At times it was quite sad, considering who she was writing to and why she was abroad in the first place, but the ...more

The dearth of pre-1800 travel literature for this region and the authorship of these 25 short letters (22 on topic) make them significant. In 1795 Mary Wollstonecraft learned that, in her absence, her “husband” (as registered in France but not fully legal) was living with an actress. Shortly after, she made the trip described in these letters with their infant daughter on his behalf. Her mission, to track down Gilbert Imlay’s “partner” and missing cargo, is not mentioned in the letters. Her brok
In this volume are two separate works: Mary Wollstonecraft's A Short Residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark and William Godwin's Memoirs of the Author of ‘The Rights of Woman’. I would rank the first of these two works with five stars, as Mary Wollstonecraft not only has a lively style but also a heart free of cant:
You have sometimes wondered, my dear friend, at the extreme affection of my nature—But such is the temperance of my soul—It is not the vivacity of youth, gthe hey-day of existence.
Free download available at Project Gutenberg. ...more
In 1795, while French armies roamed over Europe, Mary Wollstonecraft set off for Scandinavia, baby daughter and nursemaid in tow, where English travellers were very rare and lone female travellers unheard of. These letters, edited from those she sent to Gilbert Imlay (the American father of her child and all-round unreliable cad), show her to be a warm-hearted, intelligent observer, alive to natural beauty, passionate about politics, and alternately hopeful and despairing of the future (both her ...more
Aug 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This epistolary travel narrative, reads almost like an anthropological treatise, especially in its examination of the minutiae of everyday Northern European life, with a focus on the subject and treatment of women. Also, there is a concentrated effort in writing about the woes of early capitalism. In Letter Nineteen, Wollstonecraft writes: “And I am persuaded that till capital punishments are entirely abolished executions ought to have every appearance of horror given to them, instead of being, ...more
Gabrielle Dubois
I had a little trouble getting into these Scandinavian letters that didn't take me away at first sight and I understood why in letter XX: Mary Wollstonecraft lacks the freedom and humour of a Gautier Theophile or nan Alexandre Dumas when they were writing their own travel stories. This may be due to the nature of MW, but it is also due to the fact that she is a woman. Let me explain:
Although she had already written The Vindication of the Rights of Women, MW, in my very humble opinion, does not s
Nov 07, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have read The Vindication for the Rights of Woman several times, and though as a modern feminist I cannot agree with all Wollstonecraft says, I always feel very strongly when reading it, and am convinced of Wollstonecraft's daring, intelligence and strength. Reading this collection of letters was, therefore, something of a disappointment.

As I described it to a friend, Mary Wollstonecraft suddenly turns out to be a sort of proto-Lady Catherine de Bourgh, commenting on everything, giving her opi
Nov 09, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting record of a intrepid adventurer. I didn't enjoy this quite as much as I had hoped, but my expectations were high. There were a lot of brilliant insights into 18th century society and politics, and many of Wollstonecraft's reflections, particularly about women in society, still apply today. I didn't like some of her critiques, which often sounded Puritanical and detached. Also her commentary on Nature began inspiring but after a while became a bit too whimsical and repetitive. ...more
May 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, reviewed
I love the way Wollstonecraft describes the natural world. You can see her influence on the Romantic generation. I also love her feminist ideas, she really was way ahead of her time. I don't think this is a book you could sit down with and read for fun, but for the ideas she puts forth for equality between the sexes, this is definitely a book to read if you're interested in eighteenth-century gender relations, Romanticism and the Enlightenment. ...more
Sep 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The intimate tone of these letters, edited from genuine correspondence and left with “me” and “you” intact, helped them feel fresh and accessible over 200 years later. They are vital and immediate, coming from a real person and seemingly directed right at the reader. I only wish the descriptions of sights, food, clothes, etc were more detailed and less generalized.
Shawn Enright
A fine collection of journal entries and correspondences from Wollstonecraft’s journeys. Nothing profound, but it does illuminate just how entrenched the Romantics were in their philosophy. Whether musing on a Swedish stone or a Norwegian funeral rite, Wollstonecraft interacts with the world as if it’s a blank sheet of paper.

Read if you want to flex on your friends. It’s the literary equivalent of a deep-cut.
Adam Stevenson
Nov 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In 1796, Mary Wollstonecraft went to Norway to transact business for Gilbert Imlay, common-law husband and father of her daughter, who she took with her. The relationship was already in terminal decline and the week before she left on her journey she’d already tried to commit suicide with Laudanum. Already the author of Vindication of the Rights of Men and Vindication of the Rights of Women and a novel, so she decided to make a little money with a travel book.

…And it’s a wonderful example of the
May 21, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, travel, 2014
I skimmed most of this book as it isn't a travel journal as I thought it would be. These are letters that were written while Mary Wollstonecraft was in Scandinavia, and while a lot of the content is about the places she visited, there are a lot of tangents on various topics and reminiscences of stories or episodes that happened elsewhere. Also, the last two or three letters weren't even written from Scandinavia. You would learn more about Mary Wollstonecraft than about Scandinavia from reading t ...more
Jan 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There were times in reading this book that I was completely absorbed by the language Wollstonecraft used, actually able to see in my mind the vivid descriptions she entwined with emotions. And gosh, some of the phrases were just PERFECT. As her husband William Godwin said, "If ever there was a book calculated to make a man in love with its author, this appears to me to be the book." - same can be applied to me! :) ...more
Apr 22, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I tried really hard to like this book, Wollstonecraft being considered the first modern feminist, but I found my attention flagging during her 'observations'. I know its not intellectual to say so but I love reading for a good plot. And this book was lacking it. Also, on another note, I found Wollstonecraft's tone of feminism disagreeable. I didn't really see the necessity of describing how fat and ugly the women of Sweden were... ...more
Jul 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wollstonecraft is generally little-known or known for her "Vindications," but her letters are absolutely amazing. Traveling abroad to conduct business for her unfaithful husband, Wollstonecraft is dealing with an infant, poor travel conditions, and post-partem depression. Her writing keeps her from suicide, and it is absolutely brilliant! ...more
Peter Dunn
Feb 27, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am glad I began my Mary Wollenscraft reading with this collection of letters first – and particularly this very well presented and researched edition. I think I learned more about Mary Wollenscraft the woman from this than I would have done from reading “A vindication of the rights of women” – better read that next I suppose – along with something a little more of a fun read I think…
Jan 18, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read Clare Tomalin's biography of Mary Wollstonecraft and found MW disappointingly unlikeable. These letters are much more apppealing. In her own voice she speaks to the reader of her concerns, thoughts and observations. The letters are contrasting, but are of interest and definitely worth reading. ...more
Oct 02, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: university, read-2015
Parts of these letters were quite interesting, where Wollstonecraft explores ideas of nature and society, but overall I just didn't enjoy them. However I have found that texts I didn't initially enjoy reading on my own, I have found much more interesting in university lectures and seminars. So maybe that will be the case again. ...more
Aug 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dissertation
Wollstonecraft is a great writer, shifting from scenic descriptions to philosophical debates in a relatively smooth and almost-always engaging fashion. Her relationship with her infant daughter and her experiences as a solo female traveller were particularly interesting - this is a woman who takes little shit.
Aug 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
But we must have an object to refer our reflections to, or they will seldom go below the surface. As in travelling, the keeping of a journal excites to many useful enquiries that would not have been thought of, had the traveller only determined to see all he could see, without ever asking himself for what purpose.

— i.

Do not forget that, in my general observations, I do not pretend to sketch a national character; but merely to note the present state of morals and manners, as I trace the progress
Jan 31, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Depressed Woman's Travel Blog (1796)

Mary Wollstonecraft really had a bummer of a time but desperately wanted good things for the human race. I found this to be an interesting but overall depressing read, and I'm especially grateful the Oxford World's Classics editions includes an introduction providing so much of the context missing from her actual letters as well as some of her external correspondences.

Leading up to this writing, Mary is dating Imlay and they have a baby girl together named Fa
Mar 28, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
skim read, found some nice passages
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Mary Wollstonecraft was an eighteenth century British writer, philosopher, and feminist. Among the general public and specifically among feminists, Wollstonecraft's life has received much more attention than her writing because of her unconventional, and often tumultuous, personal relationships. After two ill-fated affairs, with Henry Fuseli and Gilbert Imlay, Wollstonecraft married the philosophe ...more

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