Mary Hays was an outspoken Radical intellectual in the turbulent decade of the 1790’s. She argued vehemently for the need to recognise the moral and rational qualities of women, the necessity of a better system of education for girls, and the importance of giving women without fortunes a career without ‘servitude in prostitution.’
The Victim of Prejudice—Hays’ second novel, first published in 1799—is a powerful indictment of man-made institutions such as the courts and legislative systems which favour persons of wealth and rank. In the novel the metaphor of women’s confinement becomes real as the heroine’s worst nightmares, her horrors and sense of helplessness become a physical reality.
The Victim of Prejudice is of great interest for its strong feminist content, and it is both powerful and moving as a literary work; this edition makes this important late eighteenth-century text again available to a wide readership.
“Mary Hays’ passionate tale of a girl who is raped but refuses to marry her seducer offers a powerful alternative to Victorian constructions of the ‘fallen woman’. This early feminist novel, here judiciously edited by Eleanor Ty, should be read by anyone interested in the literary history of the sexualized female, in women’s studies, or in British Romantic Literature.” — Anne K. Mellor, UCLA