PhD Completed: 2020-2021 Academic Year
Supervisor: Dr Carme Font
Area/Topic of Research: British Literature, Romanticism, Eighteenth Century Literature, Women’s Writing
Title/Provisional Title of Thesis: Helen Maria Williams and the Rise of the Woman Intellectual on the Fringes of the Eighteenth-century Literature of Sensibility
Short Abstract: The commitment of Helen Maria Williams (1761-1827) to the revolutionary cause brought her to Paris where she published Letters Written in France to a Friend in England (1790). This travelogue was received successfully in England and it was praised by authors such as Mary Wollstonecraft or Joseph Priestley, among others. In 1792 she decided to reside in France for the rest of her life. At this time, British public opinion was becoming increasingly contrary to the French Revolution, especially after the Terror and the war between Britain in France. As a result, William’s reputation in her home country suffered considerably. However, she wrote chronicles of the events happening during the Revolution. She produced 8 volumes of Letters in France between 1790 and 1796, two volumes of A Tour in Switzerland (1798); and three publications during the Napoleonic era entitled Sketches (1801), Narrative of the Events (1815) and Letters on the Events (1819). Her last work, Souvenirs de la Révolution Française (1827) was published posthumously and is available only in French. My thesis analyzes William’s corpus on political history, paying attention to how Williams formulates her own political position at the different stages of the French Revolution. As opposed to canonical British authors who wrote on French politics, such as Edmund Burke, Mary Wollstonecraft or Thomas Paine, Williams spent most of her life in France and witnessed first-hand the events that shaped the final decades of the eighteenth century as well as the beginning of the nineteenth century in Europe. As a result, I study Williams’ unique intellectual perspective that stems from her unparalleled position as a cultural mediator between the two sides of the channel.