Harriet Martineau lived an extraordinary literary life. She became a reviewer and journalist in the 1820s when her family’s fortune collapsed; published a best-selling series, Illustrations of Political Economy (1832-34), that made her fame and fortune by the age of thirty; overcame a hearing disability to become a “literary lion” in London society; toured the United States and wrote two founding texts of sociology based on her experiences; explored north Africa and the Middle East to observe non-European societies; wrote “leaders” (editorials) on slavery for the London Daily News during the American Civil War; and commented publicly on matters of politics, history, and religion in an era when women supposedly maintained their place in the sphere of domesticity.
This edition of her Autobiography reproduces the original 1877 text, which Martineau composed in 1855 and had printed in anticipation of her death. It includes illustrations of the author and her homes; excerpts from the “Memorials,” added by her editor Maria Chapman; and reviews that praise and critique Martineau’s method as an autobiographer and achievement as a Victorian woman of letters.
“Words like ‘extraordinary’ and ‘remarkable’ are not misplaced in describing Harriet Martineau’s Autobiography. Controversial throughout her life, she is, in Linda Peterson’s words, ‘a superb storyteller,’ recounting all that happened to her with outspoken directness. In a field dominated by male practitioners, Martineau's uncompromising account of her life, relationships, travels, and illnesses deserves much wider recognition. In this first comprehensively annotated edition of the text since it was originally published in 1877, readers can fully appreciate what made Martineau a compelling teller of her own tale.” — Valerie R. Sanders, University of Hull
“Harriet Martineau’s Autobiography is something much more complex than a conventional autobiography. Martineau’s long and elaborate work was self-consciously written in a hybrid form to offer advice and support for many areas of Victorian women’s experience. It considers the spiritual life, illness, education and, most powerfully of all, professional journalism as a way of life. It is an important book, less well known than it should be. This attractive and scrupulously, but unobtrusively, annotated edition by a leading scholar of Victorian women’s life writing brings a major text within reach of all those interested in Victorian women and their public and private lives.” — Brian Maidment, University of Salford