In the characteristically self-opinionated fashion that either charmed or antagonised her literary contemporaries, Harriet Martineau tried to have the last say about her life and work. She wrote her own obituary, which appeared in the Daily News on 27 June 1876, two days after her death at the age of 74. Some twenty years earlier she had retired to her Lake District home, stricken with the heart disease she believed would very soon end her life, and never one to waste time, she immediately wrote an autobiography that is enjoyably informative about the Victorian literary world she confidently inhabited and surprisingly moving in its revelations of childhood unhappiness. Deploying the cool tone of the obituary writer, she also wrote a short memoir which answers and anticipates almost all past and future criticism of her life and work. It modestly asserts her successes, efficiently articulates her weaknesses, and performs an astute identification of three aspects of her literary production that succinctly sum up the significance of her work as a woman intellectual in early Victorian England.


Literary Production Daily News Sexual Politics Paradise Lost English History 
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© Deirdre David 1987

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  • Deirdre David

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