Love in the Time of Revolution
Transatlantic Literary Radicalism and Historical Change, 1793-1818
University of North Carolina Press 2013
New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Intellectual HistoryNew Books in Literary StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in World AffairsNew Books Network April 21, 2015 Lilian Calles Barger
Andrew Cayton is a distinguished professor of history at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. In his book Love in the Time of Revolution: Transatlantic Literary Radicalism and Historical Change (University of North Carolina Press, 2013) he has given us a lucid and beautifully written history of the transatlantic relationships among the circle of radical writers that included William Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Gilbert Imlay. Caught in the fervor revolutionary change, these free thinkers believing in the goodness of humanity and reason rejected the need for authority, hierarchies, and tradition in preserving social cohesion and wellbeing. Rather, mutuality and open exchange were offered as a better foundation for society. At the intersection of public lives and private desire, they sought to extend their radical vision beyond politics and into their intimate lives through new a model of egalitarian and free relationships between men and women. Deconstructing marriage their writings reflected the protested against the constraints of conventional society. Cayton demonstrates how these radicals embodied a modern interpersonal ethic arising with the liberal free trade in goods and ideas in which the personal was political. How the sexes were to relate to each other changed forever. Differing gendered understanding of “social commerce,” between men and women, brought uneven consequences. Relationships founded on freedom, openness and devoid of binding ties beyond reasoned desire could also produce the fruits of a masculinist frame of mind – the tragedy of neglect, abuse, and abandonment experienced by women. Cayton’s portrait of Godwin, Wollstonecraft and Imlay changes how we read them and how we understand our modern selves.