Introduction: Jane Lead’s Legacy in Perspective
This brief survey of Lead’s legacy indicates that although Lead’s writings enjoyed a widespread if mixed continental reception in German and Dutch translation, English editions of her work were largely ignored by her contemporaries. During the eighteenth century she initially attracted readers generally interested either in Jacob Boehme or the doctrine of universal salvation. Afterwards she was read by several people attracted to Emanuel Swedenborg’s teachings and subsequently by certain followers of Joanna Southcott. All the same, outside these small circles her prophetic pretensions and obscure style tended to be judged harshly. Such criticism was not new. But it meant that there was greater interest in Lead’s writings among German rather than English speakers—at least until the mid-1970s. Since then, in the wake of Second Wave Feminism Lead’s reputation has undergone a remarkable ascent from the depths of disdain to the peaks of veneration.