The Paradoxical Marriage Of Godwin And Wollstonecraft

1298 Words3 Pages

"Marriage is law, and the worst of all laws."(Godwin in Paul 113) is what William Godwin, an 18th century English writer who is also known as "the founder of philosophical anarchism" (Philip), wrote in his Political Justice book. His future-to-become wife, Mary Wollstonecraft, was another English writer whose fame shone after the publication of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Wollstonecraft was one of the first women to come open and sharp against the inferiority shown towards women at her time and no different from Godwin; she also attacked the marriage institute by calling it "legal prostitution" (Tomalin 106). But despite their theories, both of these writers acted different in practice. They both married, and what is astounding is that they married each other. The announcement of the marriage left everybody astonished and not able to understand how the paradox had happened. How could these two intellectual writers, who through their work told the world "Do not marry. Marriage is slavery." marry each other? To be able to understand the causes that led them to oppose their own moral laws, one first needs to know how and why each of them supported their anti-marriage philosophies.

Godwin was a man of reason. "Reason, far more than the affections, guided his actions, and while he sought after One who would satisfy his intellect, he seems to have never felt the need, and therefore never the power of adoration and self-abasement." (Paul 27). Having such a standing, love and passion would never be enough reasons for him to lead a person to marriage. As mentioned at the beginning, he saw marriage as a law, a law that would restrict a person's actions and furthermore impose on him what actions to take. Thus he said: "Whatever our understandings may tell us of the person from whose connection we should derive the greatest improvement, of the worth of one woman, and the demerits of another, we are obliged to consider what is law, and not what is justice.

Add to this that marriage is an affair of property, and the worst of all properties. So long as two human beings are forbidden by positive institution to follow the dictates of their own mind, prejudice is alive and vigorous." (Godwin in Paul 113)

On the other side, Wollstonecraft was probably one of the most passionate women ever. She couldn't stay without loving. The element of love is what gave her and her work life.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how william godwin, an 18th century english writer, and mary wollstonecraft, whose fame shone after the publication of a vindication of the rights of woman, married each other.
  • Explains that godwin was a man of reason, and he never felt the need for adoration and self-abasement. he saw marriage as law, restricting one's actions and further imposing on him what actions to take.
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