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Unusual SuspectsPitt's Reign of Alarm and the Lost Generation of the 1790s$
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Kenneth R. Johnston

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199657803

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199657803.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 23 April 2021

Our Paris Correspondent

Our Paris Correspondent

Helen Maria Williams (1761–1827)

(p.117) 7 Our Paris Correspondent
Unusual Suspects

Kenneth R. Johnston

Oxford University Press

Liberal women writers in the 1790s were attacked more vehemently than their male counterparts. Helen Maria Williams’s literary star rose faster and fell further than any other member of the ‘lost generation’ of the 1790s. A successful poet in the mode of ‘Sensibility’ in the 1780s, her eight-volume Letters of France, published between 1790 and 1796, was the best-selling English account of the events of the revolution. Initially received favorably, it fell in reviewers’ estimation as the revolution became more violent. Former friends turned against her publicly, and she could not return to a decent acceptance in English society. She survived dangerous encounters with Robespierre’s Reign of Terror to live a comfortable life in Directory France, and later under Napoleon. She entertained William and Dorothy Wordsworth on their tour of France in 1820. The entry by Deborah Kennedy in the new Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004) restores her reputation.

Keywords:   Helen Maria Williams, Alarmist attacks, Revd Richard Polwhele, Sensibility, Hester Thrale Piozzi, Anna Seward, John Hurford Stone, James Boswell, Laetitia Hawkins

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