By Arman Teymouri Niknam, PhD candidate, Department of English, Aarhus University, engatn@cc.au.dk

Whom can one trust in a world full of evil? In relations between humans, trust and distrust are phenomena that are as unmeasurable[1] as they are abundantly existent. They have the power to fashion the way in which we relate to others, and vice versa. As this article argues, Mary Wollstonecraft portrays how trust can be a blessing as well as a curse. In her unfinished novel The Wrongs of Woman; or, Maria, Wollstonecraft shows us why trusting is a risky endeavour: we might be disappointed or our trust may be misused and exploited by others so that we fulfil their needs instead of our own. The novel was published in 1798, one year after Wollstonecraft’s premature death, with her former husband William Godwin as editor. It portrays women in 1790s England who try to find their own voice in a society and a familial setting beset with gender inequalities.[2] As is evident from the case of the main character Maria, this quest for empowerment is not risk-free for the women characters. Wollstonecraft’s female characters want to decide for themselves whom to love and how to live. Maria [The Wrongs of Woman; or, Maria] deals with the fragility involved in this search for female empowerment. In this article, I argue that the novel, not least the main character Maria, represents an early example of the “transformation in intimacy”, which Anthony Giddens describes as a part of modernity in The Consequences of Modernity. Maria’s efforts to create genuine relationships can be linked to Giddens’ description of how relationships in modernity demand an “opening out of the individual to the other”.[3] Moreover, for Giddens, personal trust in the modern age is inextricably linked to the possibility of a rupture of personal ties. Because of the fragile nature of trust in modernity, Giddens claims that trust is something which must continually be worked upon, as is also the case in Wollstonecraft’s Maria.

Wollstonecraft was in many ways an extraordinary woman. She was part of a group of radical women writers who lived unorthodox lives in England in the 1790s. In an age where many women writers wrote inoffensive love stories, these writers wrote political books and fiction with normative aspirations. This means that their writings were active attempts to affect both the norms and the society of their age. Wollstonecraft tried to commit suicide twice and had premarital romantic relationships with Henry Fuseli and Gilbert Imlay, which in turn led to the birth of an illegitimate child, Fanny Imlay. Wollstonecraft went to revolutionary France during a time in which the French revolution was despised by many of her countrymen and women. She died prematurely in 1797 following the delivery of her daughter Mary, who would later marry Percy Bysshe Shelley and become known as the writer Mary Shelley. Shortly after Mary Wollstonecraft’s death, her husband William Godwin published his memoirs about her life. Godwin’s revelations about her life created an outcry in the greater public, not least because of the details about her sexual history. As a result of Godwin’s memoirs, Wollstonecraft’s reputation suffered a tremendous blow, which lasted about a hundred years.[4]

Giddens’ sense of trust

Anthony Giddens highlights the notion of trust in his sociological work on the consequences of modernity. He emphasises changes concerning trust that have gained ground, particularly in the Western world, during the last four centuries. Giddens’ ideas on trust may strengthen our grasp of how the novel Maria thematises trust and distrust. Reading Giddens alongside Maria suggests that it is possible to place Wollstonecraft’s work on the cusp of modernity. Moreover, such a reading enables us to better perceive how Maria presents a valuable perspective on matters of trust and distrust, not least as seen from a feminine or disenfranchised perspective.

In The Consequences of Modernity, Anthony Giddens defines trust as a confidence in the reliability of a person or system, regarding a given set of outcomes or events.[5] For Giddens, confidence expresses a faith in the probity or love of another, or it expresses the correctness of abstract principles. Concerning personal relations, this means that if a person trusts another person, he/she believes that the other will handle situations in a certain, desirable way, and this belief comes from a sense of the other’s uprightness or a sense that the other loves one back.

For Giddens, we can never fully master trust, notwithstanding any efforts we may make to control it. As he writes, “All trust is in a certain sense blind trust”.[6] Despite this contingency, trust and risk intertwine in his account since Giddens sees the formation of trust as something which normally serves to reduce the dangers we face.[7] Giddens writes that risk is usually calculated consciously, and he notes that there is a balance between the calculation of risk and trust.[8] This does not mean that each instance of trust necessarily constitutes a conscious kind of commitment for Giddens.[9] However, the change from kinship-based traditional cultures to modernity[10] results in our actions and social practices being under a constant sense of review. Giddens calls this the “reflexivity of modernity”.[11] Giddens claims that modernity involves a general shift in relations between persons: In pre-modern times, friendship was characteristically based upon values of sincerity and honesty. Emotional intimacy was not a condition for maintaining personal trust. In modern societies, honour is replaced by loyalty, and loyalty is mainly based on personal affection. Sincerity is replaced by authenticity, which involves being open and well-meaning, but not necessarily always telling the truth.[12] All this means that personal trust has become fragile in modernity; it has become a project, something which must be continually “worked at“, and it requires what Giddens describes as an “opening out of the individual to the other”, or “a mutual process of self-disclosure”.[13]

The opposite of trust is not mistrust for Giddens, but a form of anxiety, because a lack of trust entails a lack of familiarity with one’s surroundings.[14] In Giddens’ terminology, this lack constitutes a lack of “ontological security”.[15] Ontological security refers to “the confidence that most human beings have in the continuity of their self-identity and in the constancy of the surrounding social and material environments of action”.[16] It concerns a sense of the “reliability of persons and things”, which he sees as central to the notion of trust. Using philosophical terms, Giddens explains how ontological security is about a “being” or “being-in-the-world”; it is an emotional phenomenon (rather than cognitive) and has to do with the unconscious.[17] In the adult personality, Giddens claims, trust in others “is a psychological need of a persistent and recurrent kind”, closely bound up with ontological security and a feeling of the continuity of things and persons.[18] As shown later, it is, surprisingly, Maria’s lack of ontological security that leads to an excessive amount of trust.

Distrust, risk, and freedom in Maria

Maria begins in medias res in a private mental asylum where Maria is struggling. She has been stunned by the acts of her husband, George Venables. He has placed her in the mental asylum against her will and taken their little child away from her. We later learn that George has done so because Maria no longer wants to live with him. In this dark moment, Maria feels a sense of desperation as she grieves at the thought of losing her daughter. Yet, she becomes determined to make an effort so that she may better her situation. This is obvious in the following passage where free indirect discourse is used:

She had hitherto meditated only to point the dart of anguish, and suppressed the heart heavings of indignant nature merely by the force of contempt. Now she endeavoured to brace her mind to fortitude, and to ask herself what was to be her employment in her dreary cell? Was it not to effect her escape, to fly to the succour of her child, and to baffle the selfish schemes of her tyrant – her husband? […] By force, or openly, what could be done? But surely some expedient might occur to an active mind, without any other employment, and possessed of sufficient resolution to put the risk of life into the balance with the chance of freedom.[19]

Upon her arrival at the asylum, Maria is able to experience only feelings of anguish and contempt. Yet, she subsequently becomes resolved to escape and rescue her child. As the narrator indicates, she is willing to risk something in order to gain the chance of freedom. George has put her in an asylum even though she does not seem to suffer from any kind of mental illness.[20] She has thus truly paid a high price for defying her confused and vicious husband. Maria tells the story about a woman who dares to act on her feelings of distrust towards her husband. Ultimately, George seems to be interested in her only because she gives him access to her uncle’s money. Distrust, risk, and freedom intertwine in this novel in the sense that distrust has the potential to lead women to risk their ordered lives for the hope of gaining an ideal state of freedom in their lives. The boldness involved in risking distrust, i.e., the audacity of acting on one’s sense of distrust, is evident towards the end of the novel. Maria here speaks in front of the jury that has prosecuted her lover from the mental asylum, Henry Darnford, for adultery and seduction:

Neglected by my husband, I never encouraged a lover; and preserved with scrupulous care, what is termed my honour, at the expense of my peace, till he, who should have been its guardian, laid traps to ensnare me. From that moment I believed myself, the sight of heaven, free – and no power on earth shall force me to renounce my resolution.[21]

Maria was, in her own words, not looking for another man until it became clear to her that her negligent husband was deceiving purely to take advantage of her. From the moment she truly became aware of her husband’s intentions (to exploit her goodwill for financial reasons), she relinquished her sense of obligation and felt a strong sense of freedom. Maria’s process of gaining control over her own destiny was in reality more gradual than her explanation to the jury implies. It took many years of struggle for her to realise that she needed to leave her husband. When her husband puts her in the mental asylum, she only manages to escape from there because of the help she receives from the warder Jemima. As the novel is unfinished, we do not know how Maria’s story ends. Wollstonecraft sketched several possible endings for the novel, many of which see Maria’s life end in despair and trouble. Nevertheless, an earlier incident in the novel, which will be discussed shortly, wherein she expresses her desire to leave her husband, still represents a watershed moment, full of hope of gaining self-determination and freedom.

Contributing to God’s creation via the use of reason

A large part of Maria consists of Maria’s memoirs to her little daughter. In the memoirs, Maria tells her daughter how she slowly realized the defects of her husband after they had married and moved to London. She first made what she describes as a “fatal error”. This fatal error was to believe in the widespread idea that goodness of disposition is the most important thing in the situations of life.[22] Such a statement seems enigmatic. In order to understand it, I believe we must keep Mary Wollstonecraft’s wider philosophical thought in mind. For Wollstonecraft, there is a difference between the spontaneous and casual feelings of virtue on the one hand, and the proper sense of virtue on the other hand. A proper sense of virtue is grounded both in reason and in feeling.[23] According to these elements in Wollstonecraft’s thought, it is not satisfactory that human nature contains innate goodness; we need to work on becoming better human beings through our use of reason. As also noted by the contemporary scholar Martina Reuter,[24] Wollstonecraft had an optimistic belief in the human ability to contribute to God’s creation via the use of reason. This is connected to Wollstonecraft’s attitude towards trust since her writings often dismiss types of friendship and love that do not promote a cultivation of mind and virtue. Wollstonecraft largely maintains that healthy human relations can prosper only if the connections are grounded on a reason-based virtuous conduct, instead of being grounded on an unreasoned, naïve kind of trust. We find an example of this in her autobiographical travel book Letters written in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. Upon her return to a town in Norway, she feels ignored by the inhabitants and notes that it requires more “cultivation of mind to keep awake affection” than most people suppose. She thereafter criticises the commonplace praise of “undisguised confidence” in matters of love.[25]

Maria continues her description of her former life with George with the following statement: “One trait in my character was extreme credulity; but when my eyes were once opened, I saw but too clearly all I had before overlooked”.[26] Here, Maria clearly points to a reflective engagement with trust in which one opens one’s eyes and lets go of being credulous. Because of her efforts to let go of credulity, she was able to judge her husband’s conduct differently. He gradually appeared in a much less positive light than before. The loss of credulity hence enabled her to ‘open her eyes’ to the realities of her husband’s being. Maria realised that her husband had treated her unfairly, and she was then able to imagine a life without him. Maria slowly grew to express a firmness of purpose in her relationship with George. In her memoirs, she describes how she was not able to confront George properly for the first many years of their marriage, or to confront what she calls his “distasteful fondness”.[27] What limited her at this stage of their marriage was her sense of “compassion” for him together with what she describes as a “fear of insulting his supposed feelings”.[28] This restraint of her critical feelings later changes into a full-blown determination to change the status quo. This is exemplified in a conversation related in Maria’s memoirs in which Maria scolds her husband for wanting to sell her body to one of his friends as if she were a prostitute. While her husband’s friend is there, she tells the friend that he stands as a witness of her wish to quit the house and then makes the following remark: “I will provide for myself and child. I leave him [George] as free as I am determined to be myself – he shall be answerable for no debts of mine”.[29] Accordingly, distrust in Wollstonecraft’s novel paves the way for efforts to reach emancipation – however difficult it is to carry out these efforts.

The goodness of trusting others

Even though the novel deals with distrust, Maria in fact also shows the goodness of trusting others without an excessive focus on the risks of doing so. If we focus too much on the dangers of engaging with others, we risk denying ourselves the possibility of experiencing relationships composed of love. In her memoirs, Maria warns her daughter of adopting “the frigid caution of cold-blooded moralists”.[30] Maria thus emphasises the importance of including trust and love towards a person one loves without being overly cautious.

Maria depicts trust as both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, one should avoid trusting others, or at least be careful and reflective when doing so, since it creates vulnerability, even potentially endangering one’s life. On the other hand, trust forms the basis of friendship and love, which is why trusting others without an excessive focus on the risks of doing so can lead to both love and affection for humankind. This ambivalence is also visible towards the end of the novel when Maria spends time with her lover Darnford, whom she receives “as her husband”:

There was one peculiarity in Maria’s mind: she was more anxious not to deceive, than to guard against deception; and had rather trust without sufficient reason than be for ever the prey of doubt. […] Maria now, imagining that she had found a being of celestial mould – was happy, – nor was she deceived.[31]

Here, Maria is in love and highly values trust, even a kind of trust not yet supported by reason; at this point in the novel she would rather be trustful than be left in doubt. Yet, just two pages later the general dangers of credulity are brought up again when Maria “inconsiderately” consents to giving George all her uncle’s money so that he may leave her and Darnford in peace. George does not keep his promise of leaving them in peace since he later sues Darnford for adultery and seduction of his wife. Consequently, Maria contains at least two different, and rather contrasting, positions on the value of trusting others. Trust is depicted as a necessary source for genuine human affection. But in Maria, to trust those who do not deserve our trust is also described and revealed to be a dangerous enterprise.

Trusting Wollstonecraft

One might ask whether readers can trust the novel’s descriptions of Maria’s memoirs, whether they can trust the narrator who generally seems to be on the side of the female cause. Maria is clearly a sympathetic character whose role is to inspire, even provoke readers of the novel. In her preface to Maria, Wollstonecraft acknowledged that her novel is a deliberate portrayal of the oppression of women.[32] Maria clearly connects to the aims of Wollstonecraft’s gender politics; Maria’s voice greatly corresponds to Wollstonecraft’s thought. It is the specific oppression faced by women, which is here the main cause for the existence of the ‘wrongs of woman’. This expression refers both to the faults of misogynist “oppressors” and the faults of weak “ordinary” women.[33] However, even though Maria seems to be cast as the heroine of the novel, she is not altogether innocent. This becomes clear when Maria puts strong efforts into gaining the approval of Jemima, the warder.

While Jemima’s name means ‘dove’, which is a common (biblical) symbol for peace and deliverance, her life story is anything but peaceful until she meets Maria in the asylum. Jemima went through a chaotic childhood as an unwanted child and ended up in prostitution when she grew up. At an early stage of their relationship, Maria thinks Jemima will be able to help her escape the asylum. They develop a tender friendship, which leads Jemima to give an account of her life-story to both Maria and Darnford. The warm feelings involved in this friendship seem to be genuine and mutual. Yet, just after Jemima has told her life-story, she becomes the main “subject of reflection” for Maria, who is eager to learn what has happened to her daughter:

Maria thought, and thought again. Jemima’s humanity had rather been benumbed than killed, by the keen frost she had to brave at her entrance into life; an appeal then to her feelings, on this tender point, surely would not be fruitless; and Maria began to anticipate the delight it would afford her to gain intelligence of her child. This project was now the only subject of reflection; and she watched impatiently for the dawn of day, with that determinate purpose which generally insures success.[34]

Maria’s thoughts reveal that even she, the heroine of the novel, borders on becoming a cunning character who thinks of how to use Jemima’s generosity and vulnerability for her own purposes. Maria is thus not as flawless and innocent a character as we might initially think. She tries to win Jemima’s affections and build up Jemima’s ability to trust her. Trust is here used as something which serves a clear purpose, however uncertain the outcome will be.

Emotional intimacy in the age of modernity

There are links between Anthony Giddens’ description of the demand to ‘open oneself up’ in modernity and the way in which personal relations are depicted in Maria. Part of the reason why Maria, Jemima, and Darnford establish a strong relationship in the mental asylum is because they try to open up their life-stories and emotional lives to each other. Furthermore, Maria’s relations to both her husband Venables and Jemima are cases in which trust is continually developing, being in a state of change, and something which is ‘worked at’, especially by Maria herself. Giddens notes that relations grounded in personal feelings, informed by sociability, have surpassed the stability of honour-based relations that was a part of pre-modern societies.[35] Maria’s refusal to be with the husband she once married, and later falling in love with the man of her dreams,[36] illustrate what Giddens calls the ‘transformation of intimacy’: It is a shift from a kinship-based relational structure to a structure based upon the individual’s own emotions and self-reflexivity.

Maria’s story clearly exemplifies the fragility of trust in modernity. Maria is caught, at times, between wanting to trust her husband and acknowledging the dangers of credulity. Giddens points to the ways in which we are never fully able to master trust. Personal relations are much more at risk of being broken in the age of modernity. This fragility of trust is present in Wollstonecraft’s novel, perhaps even in the relation between Maria and Jemima. Whereas Giddens claims that relating to trust normally serves to minimize the dangers associated with risks, Wollstonecraft’s novel portrays how engaging with distrust can cause dangers or result in unstable circumstances, yet also be part of a struggle for greater freedoms.

Risking (Dis)trust

For Giddens a sense of ontological security is closely related to trust.[37] In this passage from Maria’s memoirs in Wollstonecraft’s novel, it is precisely a lack of ontological security, which leads Maria to become too trusting of George:

The second son, George, paid me particular attention, and finding his attainments and manners superior to those of the young men of the village, I began to imagine him superior to the rest of mankind. Had my home been more comfortable, or my previous acquaintance more numerous, I should not probably have been so eager to open my heart to new affections.[38]

Maria’s memoirs here indicate that had Maria had a greater sense of ontological security as a youngster, she would probably not have had an excessive amount of trust towards new acquaintances. This means that in Maria’s account, the continuous confidence and stability in one’s environment and in others, what Giddens calls ontological security, is something that actually enables one to exercise a healthy amount of distrust. If we grow up and live in a comfortable environment, we may thus not only learn how to trust others (cf. ontological security); we may actually as well gain a healthy amount of cautiousness towards new acquaintances, making us more prone to a healthy level of distrust. Understood in this way, the ability to distrust is as necessary for the wise individual as the ability to trust.

If we become aware of the dangers of trusting others blindly, we are able to think and act differently towards our surroundings. Even though Wollstonecraft extols friendship and love, her writings in many respects demand of us, and particularly of women, to let go of a laissez-faire attitude where sentiments have control over conduct when we relate to others. Instead, we should control conduct using both reason and feelings. “Risking (Dis)trust” hence refers both to the risks involved in trusting others, as well as the risks involved in responding actively to one’s sense of distrust. In sum, Wollstonecraft believed on the one hand in the blessings of trust and love, and on the other hand she saw the ability to act on distrust as a means of empowering women. Her manifold ways of engaging with trust in Maria illustrate this ambivalence.


[1] An inspiration here has been Simon Sinek’s description of trust as unmeasurable in a TED radio podcast talk on trust and consequence (2015).

[2] Some parts of this article originate from my conference paper at the third meeting of the Trust and Risk in Literature Network. I am very grateful to Pamela Clemit for her valuable comments on the paper. Clemit was my mentor during a research stay from April to June 2017 at Queen Mary, University of London.  I would also like to thank my main PhD supervisor, Joseph William Sterrett, for his useful comments. Comments from the editors of Spheres have also greatly helped in shaping the article.

[3] Anthony Giddens, The Consequences of Modernity, p. 121.

[4] Barbara Taylor, Mary Wollstonecraft and the Feminist Imagination, p. 9.

[5] Giddens, The Consequences of Modernity, p. 34.

[6] Ibid., p. 33.

[7] Ibid., p. 35.

[8] Ibid., p. 35.

[9] Ibid., p. 90.

[10] For Anthony Giddens, the term ’modernity’ refers to ”modes of social life or organisation which emerged in Europe from about the seventeenth century onwards and which subsequently became more or less worldwide in their influence” (The Consequences of Modernity, p. 1).

[11] Giddens, The Consequences of Modernity, pp. 36-39.

[12] Ibid., pp. 118-121.

[13] Ibid., p. 121.

[14] Ibid., pp. 99-100.

[15] Ibid., pp. 92-100.

[16] Ibid., p. 92.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid., p. 97.

[19] Mary Wollstonecraft, “The Wrongs of Woman: Or, Maria”, pp. 70-71.

[20] Gary Kelly notes that mental asylums in late 18th century England “were private businesses, and there were many cases of families, with the collusion of corrupt doctors, having relatives who were not insane confined in such places for illegitimate reasons, such as control of property or disposing of a spouse. Conditions were often horrific, inmates were commonly mistreated, and women were sexually exploited by warders and other inmates” (Gary Kelly, “Explanatory Notes”, p. 188). Even though Kelly writes about how, by the standards of the time, the madhouse where Maria is confined seems unusually safe and well-run (ibid.), Maria seems to be put there without sufficient justification. In my opinion, Maria does not appear mentally disturbed from a reader’s perspective, even though she is quite desperate at times. Maria seems especially desperate when she is in the process of trying to convince the warder Jemima to help her get out of the mental asylum. An example is a passage from Chapter Two wherein Maria is about to fall into a state of despondency, but is cheered up when Jemima suddenly delivers some books for her to read. The changes that occur in the way in which Jemima receives her thus play a role for Maria’s mood (Wollstonecraft, “Maria”, pp. 77-78).

[21] Wollstonecraft, “Maria”, p. 173.

[22] Wollstonecraft, “Maria”, p. 127.

[23] See e.g. this passage from Maria about the dangers of excessive passion without reason: “Still Maria, accustomed to generalize her observations, was led to conclude from all she heard, that it was a vulgar error to suppose that people of abilities were the most apt to lose the command of reason. On the contrary, from most of the instances she could investigate, she thought it resulted, that the passions only appeared strong and disproportioned, because the judgement was weak and unexercised; and that they gained strength by the decay of reason, as the shadows lengthen during the sun’s decline” (Wollstonecraft, “Maria”, p. 84).

[24] Martina Reuter, “’Like a Fanciful Kind of Half Being’: Mary Wollstonecraft’s Criticism of Jean-Jacques Rousseau”, pp. 927-928.

[25] Mary Wollstonecraft, “Letters written during a short residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark”, p. 74.

[26] Wollstonecraft, “Maria”, p. 127.

[27] Ibid., p. 135.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid., p. 143.

[30] Ibid., p. 113.

[31] Ibid., p.165.

[32] “In many instances I could have made the incidents more dramatic, would I have sacrificed my main object, the desire of exhibiting the misery and oppression, peculiar to women, that arise out of the partial laws and customs of society. In the invention of the story, this view restrained my fancy; and the history ought rather to be considered, as of woman, than of an individual” (Wollstonecraft, “Maria”, p. 67).

[33] Mary Wollstonecraft’s two-sided understanding of the expression ‘wrongs of woman’ can be sensed in the novel’s preface wherein William Godwin, Wollstonecraft’s last husband, included an extract of a letter Wollstonecraft sent to her friend George Dyson (Wollstonecraft, “Maria”, pp. 67-68). Wollstonecraft here elaborates on the meaning of the term ‘wrongs of woman’, just after having described a miserable marriage: “I should despise, or rather call her an ordinary woman, who could endure such a husband as I have sketched. These appear to me (matrimonial despotism of heart and conduct) to be the peculiar Wrongs of Woman, because they degrade the mind. … This is what I have in view; and to show the wrongs of different classes of women, equally oppressive, though, from the difference of education, necessarily various” (ibid.). A woman who, despite having an “improving mind”, does nothing but obey her husband is thus an “ordinary woman” (ibid.). Her behaviour is part of the ‘wrongs of woman’, as is the behaviour of her oppressive husband.

[34] Wollstonecraft, “Maria”, p. 107.

[35] Ibid., p. 120.

[36] Barbara Taylor emphasises that Henry Darnford in no way lives up to Maria’s high expectations. He merely proves to be a “philanderer” who is “temporarily transformed into a romantic hero by the power of Maria’s imagination” (Taylor, Mary Wollstonecraft and the Feminist Imagination, p. 135). Taylor asserts that Darnford at first is inspired to act up to Maria’s “glorified image” of him, but this changes when “his real character begins to reveal itself” (ibid.). All five conclusions, which Wollstonecraft sketched for Maria, Taylor points out, “involve Darnford’s betrayal of Maria” (ibid., pp. 135-136). Taylor certainly has a point in her critical assessment of Darnford’s character since he lived as a libertine up until he met Maria, and several of the outlined conclusions do involve Darnford’s betrayal of Maria. Yet, I would maintain that, throughout most of the novel, Maria and Darnford’s relation includes a high amount of sincere affections, well-meaning thoughts and trust in one another, even though the danger of betrayal lurks in the background: “Desire was lost in more ineffable emotions, and to protect her [Maria] from insult and sorrow – to make her happy, seemed not only the first wish of his [Darnford’s] heart, but the most noble duty of his life. Such angelic confidence demanded the fidelity of honour; but could he, feeling her in every pulsation, could he ever change, could he be a villain? The emotion with which she, for a moment, allowed herself to be pressed to his bosom, the tear of rapturous sympathy, mingled with a soft melancholy sentiment of recollected disappointment, said – more of truth and faithfulness, than the tongue could have given utterance to in hours!” (Wollstonecraft, “Maria”, pp. 90-91).

[37] Giddens, The Consequences of Modernity, p. 92.

[38] Wollstonecraft, ”Maria”, p. 115.


Giddens, Anthony (1990): The Consequences of Modernity (Cambridge & Malden: Polity Press, 1990), p. 34.

Kelly, Gary (2007): ”Explanatory Notes”, in Kelly, Gary (ed.):  Mary and The Wrongs of Woman (Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press).

Reuter, Martina (2014): “’Like a Fanciful Kind of Half Being’: Mary Wollstonecraft’s Criticism of Jean-Jacques Rousseau”. Hypatia 29, 925-941.

Sinek, Simon (2015): “Trust and Consequences”, http://www.npr.org/programs/ted-radio-hour/406238794/trust-and-consequences, Friday, May 15, 2015. Accessed 8th August 2017.

Taylor, Barbara (2003): Mary Wollstonecraft and the Feminist Imagination (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

Wollstonecraft, Mary (2007): “The Wrongs of Woman: Or, Maria”, in Kelly, Gary (ed.): Mary and The Wrongs of Woman, (Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press).

Wollstonecraft, Mary (2009): “Letters written during a short residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark”, in Tone Brekke and Jon Mee (ed.): Letters written during a short residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark (Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press).

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