Published online by Cambridge University Press: 16 January 2020
Mary Wollstonecraft’s works drew on her extensive travels in Portugal, France, Ireland, Scandinavia, and Germany; she dedicated her most important book, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, to the French political figure Maurice de Talleyrand; and she translated texts from three foreign languages. Nonetheless, scholars’ evaluations of her writings tend to remain restricted to the British context, seeing her work in terms of national history, literary achievement, and women’s rights. Moreover, the consensus that Wollstonecraft’s reputation was ruined after William Godwin revealed her out-of-wedlock liaisons in the Memoirs of the Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1798) has prolonged focus on her biography as much as on her writing, which has in turn distracted from her cosmopolitan literary and intellectual legacy. An entirely different view emerges when one considers translations and reviews of her work. These reveal a Wollstonecraft who, contrary to her conflicted British reception in the early nineteenth century, commanded respect both before and after she died; her writings continued to be translated and her ideas embraced. This suggests that the revived mid-nineteenth-century interest in Wollstonecraft among British feminists and suffragists was due as much to the rebound of her ideas from the Continent and America as native rehabilitation. The transnational ricocheting of Wollstonecraft translations and ideas has, moreover, continued in the twenty-first century, as her work continues to inspire debate globally.1 Wollstonecraft should consequently be viewed not only nationally but also internationally.