‘Tied To Their Species By The Strongest Of All Relations’: Mary Wollstonecraft and the Rewriting of Race as Sensibility

  • Moi Rickman


In December 1788 the Analytical Review published a review of the work of the American-born moral philosopher Samuel Stanhope Smith, An Essay on the Causes of the Variety of Complexion and Figure in the Human Species. To Which Are Added, Strictures on Lord Kames’s Discourse on the Original Diversity of Mankind (1787).1 Although the reviewer’s identity is marked merely with the initial ‘M’, its authorship can be attributed to the radical and feminist, Mary Wollstonecraft.2 The review is significant because it provides an example of a woman writing in the capacity of a critic, whose anonymity allows her to divert public censure from her employment while simultaneously permitting her knowingly to subvert the public/private dichotomy of eighteenth-century gender codes. For Wollstonecraft, the act of writing enables her to penetrate the public realm, to participate in the creation of standards of taste and influence the formation of public opinion. It also allows her, in this particular instance, to engage directly with Smith’s Essay and a philosophical enquiry into the sensitive issue of race or ‘human variety’.


Human Nature Differential Development Eighteenth Century Human Species Monogenism Function 
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© Moi Rickman 2005

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  • Moi Rickman

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