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Mary Delarivier Manley (1663 - 1724)

Related: 1700s literature - British literature - literature - UK


Mary Delarivier Manley (1663 - 1724) was an early writer of pulp fiction, playwright and also a political pamphleteer and aide of the then Prime Minister Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Mortimer. Manley's texts deal thematically with an early or proto-feminist perspective, the reification of the female body, and the validity of the female point of view. This was very radical stuff at the time, as was her life, being a member, with fellow writers Eliza Haywood and Aphra Behn, of the group known as The Fair Triumvirate of Wit. Her writing participated in the amatory fiction genre of British literature.

She was brought up with her sister Cornelia by her father in an army camp. After the death of their father, the girls became wards of their cousin, John Manley, a Tory MP. John Manley had married a Cornish heiresss and, later, bigamously married Delarivier. They had a son, also named John.

In January 1694 she left her huisband and went to live with Lady Castlemaine, at one time the mistress of Charles II. She remained there only six months, being expelled by the duchess for flirting with her son.

During the period of 1694 - 1696 Delarivier travelled extensively in England, principally in the south-west. At this time she wrote her first play, a comedy, The Lost Lover, or, The Jealous Husband (1696). It is possible that she was by then reconciled with her husband. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delarivier_Manley [Nov 2005]

The New Atalantis (1709) - Delarivier Manley

The New Atalantis (1709) - Delarivier Manley [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

New Atalantis (1709) is an early and influential example of satirical political writing by a woman. It was suppressed on the grounds of its scandalous nature and Manley (1663-1724) was arrested and tried.

Delarivier Manley was in her day as well-known and potent a political satirist as her friend and co-editor Jonathan Swift. A fervent Tory, Manley skilfully interweaves sexual and political allegory in the tradition of the roman a clef in an acerbic vilification of her Whig opponents. The book's publication in 1709 - fittingly the year of the collapse of the Whig ministry - caused a scandal which led to the arrest of the author, publisher and printer.

The story concerns the return to earth of the goddess of justice, Astrea, to gather information about private and public behaviour on the island of Atalantis. Delarivier Manley drew on her own experiences as well as on an obsessive observation of her milieu to produce this fast-paced narrative of political and erotic intrigue. The republication of this important early eighteenth-century text is timely because in Manley's concerns - with sexual and political corruption in high places, the power of the propagandist and the role of the woman writer - we recognise those of today. --http://www.pickeringchatto.com/newatlantis.htm [Nov 2005]

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