While best remembered for her revolutionary work, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), renowned feminist, author, and thinker Mary Wollstonecraft’s most popular book during her lifetime was a remarkable travel narrative, Letters Written in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark.
The impetus behind Wollstonecraft’s journey couldn’t be more dramatic: Her relationship with her lover on rocky ground, Wollstonecraft sets out for Scandinavia in order to retrieve a stolen treasure ship for him. As she travels across the dramatic landscape, she writes vividly of the people she encounters, events she witnesses, and the sublime natural landscape. Yet the letters also reflect her anguish as she comes to realize that her love affair is fated to end.
In its day, Letters Written in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark inspired hordes of readers to travel to Scandinavia. Now, with a new introduction by acclaimed travel author and novelist Joanna Kavenna, Mary Wollstonecraft's remarkable Letters will enchant a new generation of readers and world travelers.
“Travelling with just her baby daughter and a nursemaid as company, Wollstonecraft cuts a dashing figure on a mission to recover a stolen boat of silver and proves herself an acute observer and knowledgeable guide. She was, however, primarily a woman of ideas and she used these letters to extend her defence of the French Revolution, outline her radical stance on women's rights, crime (caused by wealth, not poverty), capital punishment (ineffective and excessive) and commerce (evil).... This collection brings to life the radical writer of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, proving she was a strident, independent force in deeds as well as words. One can only imagine the spectacle she caused travelling alone in the late 18th century.”
—Katie Toms, The Observer
"If ever there was a book calculated to make a man in love with its author, this appears to me to be the book."
—William Godwin, husband of Mary Wollstonecraft
About the Authors
Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) was published at the end of the 18th century, in the period of intellectual upheaval that followed in the wake of the Enlightenment. With the gradual erosion of monarchical authority (culminating with the French Revolution in 1789), and the birth of democracy, the question of the rights of men engendered lively debate — but a woman’s lot remained unconsidered. Wollstonecraft, however, was determined to change this and to add a dissenting female voice to the chorus debating political emancipation. Best known as a radical feminist, Wollstonecraft wrote about politics, history, and various aspects of philosophy in a number of different genres that included critical reviews, translations, pamphlets, and novels. With the Letters Written in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark and other works, she also shaped the art of travel writing as a literary genre and, through her account of her journey through Scandinavia, she had an impact on the Romantic movement.
Joanna Kavenna grew up in various parts of Britain, and has also lived in the USA, France, Germany, Scandinavia, and the Baltic States. Her first book, The Ice Museum, details her travels in the remote North. Her second is a novel called Inglorious, which won the Orange Award for New Writing. It was followed by a novel called The Birth of Love, which was longlisted for the Orange Prize. Her latest novel is a satire called Come to the Edge. Kavenna's writing has appeared in The New Yorker, London Review of Books, The Guardian and Observer, The Times Literary Supplement, International Herald Tribune, The Spectator and The Telegraph, among others. She was named as one of The Telegraph's "20 Writers under 40" in 2010. She has most recently been the Writer-in-Residence at St Peter's College, Oxford.