Maria; or The Wrongs of Woman, by Mary Wollstonecraft


By the Editor 14

14 i.e., Godwin [Publisher’s note].

VERY FEW hints exist respecting the plan of the remainder of the work. I find only two detached sentences, and some scattered heads for the continuation of the story. I transcribe the whole.


“Darnford’s letters were affectionate; but circumstances occasioned delays, and the miscarriage of some letters rendered the reception of wished-for answers doubtful: his return was necessary to calm Maria’s mind.”


“As Darnford had informed her that his business was settled, his delaying to return seemed extraordinary; but love to excess, excludes fear or suspicion.”

The scattered heads for the continuation of the story, are as follow. 15

15 To understand these minutes, it is necessary the reader should consider each of them as setting out from the same point in the story, viz. the point to which it is brought down in the preceding chapter. [Godwin’s note]


“Trial for adultery — Maria defends herself — A separation from bed and board is the consequence — Her fortune is thrown into chancery — Darnford obtains a part of his property — Maria goes into the country.”


“A prosecution for adultery commenced — Trial — Darnford sets out for France — Letters — Once more pregnant — He returns — Mysterious behaviour — Visit — Expectation — Discovery — Interview — Consequence.


“Sued by her husband — Damages awarded to him — Separation from bed and board — Darnford goes abroad — Maria into the country — Provides for her father — Is shunned — Returns to London — Expects to see her lover — The rack of expectation — Finds herself again with child — Delighted — A discovery — A visit — A miscarriage — Conclusion.”


“Divorced by her husband — Her lover unfaithful — Pregnancy — Miscarriage — Suicide.”

[The following passage appears in some respects to deviate from the preceding hints. It is superscribed “THE END.”]

“She swallowed the laudanum; her soul was calm — the tempest had subsided — and nothing remained but an eager longing to forget herself — to fly from the anguish she endured to escape from thought — from this hell of disappointment.

“Still her eyes closed not — one remembrance with frightful velocity followed another — All the incidents of her life were in arms, embodied to assail her, and prevent her sinking into the sleep of death. — Her murdered child again appeared to her, mourning for the babe of which she was the tomb. —’And could it have a nobler? — Surely it is better to die with me, than to enter on life without a mother’s care! — I cannot live! — but could I have deserted my child the moment it was born? — thrown it on the troubled wave of life, without a hand to support it?’— She looked up: ‘What have I not suffered! — may I find a father where I am going! — Her head turned; a stupor ensued; a faintness —’Have a little patience,’ said Maria, holding her swimming head (she thought of her mother), ‘this cannot last long; and what is a little bodily pain to the pangs I have endured?’

“A new vision swam before her. Jemima seemed to enter — leading a little creature, that, with tottering footsteps, approached the bed. The voice of Jemima sounding as at a distance, called her — she tried to listen, to speak, to look!

“’Behold your child!’ exclaimed Jemima. Maria started off the bed, and fainted. — Violent vomiting followed.

“When she was restored to life, Jemima addressed her with great solemnity: ‘——— led me to suspect, that your husband and brother had deceived you, and secreted the child. I would not torment you with doubtful hopes, and I left you (at a fatal moment) to search for the child! — I snatched her from misery — and (now she is alive again) would you leave her alone in the world, to endure what I have endured?’

“Maria gazed wildly at her, her whole frame was convulsed with emotion; when the child, whom Jemima had been tutoring all the journey, uttered the word ‘Mamma!’ She caught her to her bosom, and burst into a passion of tears — then, resting the child gently on the bed, as if afraid of killing it — she put her hand to her eyes, to conceal as it were the agonizing struggle of her soul. She remained silent for five minutes, crossing her arms over her bosom, and reclining her head — then exclaimed: ‘The conflict is over! — I will live for my child!’”

A few readers perhaps, in looking over these hints, will wonder how it could have been practicable, without tediousness, or remitting in any degree the interest of the story, to have filled, from these slight sketches, a number of pages, more considerable than those which have been already presented. But, in reality, these hints, simple as they are, are pregnant with passion and distress. It is the refuge of barren authors only, to crowd their fictions with so great a number of events, as to suffer no one of them to sink into the reader’s mind. It is the province of true genius to develop events, to discover their capabilities, to ascertain the different passions and sentiments with which they are fraught, and to diversify them with incidents, that give reality to the picture, and take a hold upon the mind of a reader of taste, from which they can never be loosened. It was particularly the design of the author, in the present instance, to make her story subordinate to a great moral purpose, that “of exhibiting the misery and oppression, peculiar to women, that arise out of the partial laws and customs of society. — This view restrained her fancy.”16 It was necessary for her, to place in a striking point of view, evils that are too frequently overlooked, and to drag into light those details of oppression, of which the grosser and more insensible part of mankind make little account.

16 See author’s preface. [Godwin’s note]

This web edition published by:

The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005

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