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Contested LiberalismsMartineau, Dickens and the Victorian Press$
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Iain Crawford

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781474453134

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474453134.001.0001

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‘The display of woman’s naked mind to the gaze of the world’: Harriet Martineau and the Press, 1830–1834

‘The display of woman’s naked mind to the gaze of the world’: Harriet Martineau and the Press, 1830–1834

(p.29) Chapter 1 ‘The display of woman’s naked mind to the gaze of the world’: Harriet Martineau and the Press, 1830–1834
Contested Liberalisms

Iain Crawford

Edinburgh University Press

Chapter 1 connects Martineau’s early writing for and about the press with the intellectual legacy she derived from Enlightenment thought. Specifically, it explores her modification of the stadial theory of social progress that she derived from Adam Smith as she blended elements from Smith’s work on moral sympathy with Schiller’s writing on aesthetics and the formation of a community of taste. After showing how both Smith and Schiller contributed to her understanding of the crucial role of public discourse as an essential agent of social progress, the chapter moves to examine her advocacy for the press in the years immediately before she traveled to America. Martineau’s own journalism in the early 1830s makes a popularized version of the argument that was simultaneously being developed in the elite reviews, emphasizing a vital connection between the promotion of universal access to education and the removal of the ‘taxes upon knowledge’ that inhibited the free circulation of information and ideas. Martineau’s distinctive contribution to that argument, however, appears in two articles on Sir Walter Scott that she published shortly after his death in 1833, and the chapter concludes by arguing for a new reading of these essays as a combined statement of the essential need to write women into the narrative of history and a claim for her own authority to undertake such work.

Keywords:   Stadial theory, Schiller, The press, Scott

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