Infamous Scribblers

women writers of the long eighteenth century

Empires of the Self: Mary Brunton and the “Nonfamous” Scribbling Woman

imagesMary Brunton (1778-1818) was a Scottish novelist and wife of a clergyman. Although she only wrote three novels, Self-Control, Discipline, and Emmeline, her work was widely read by her contemporaries, including Jane Austen.

Brunton is an immensely under studied early nineteenth-century author, due in no small part, I imagine, to both her apparent religious zeal and her Scottish heritage. Yet in her novels Brunton uses these two aspects that threaten to marginalize her to develop strategies of resistance, to interrogate methods of political survival, and to explore the connection between subjectivity and empire, self-government and imperialism. Though few in number, Brunton’s contributions to the development of the novel are surprisingly rich, teeming with issues of the dangers of domesticity, the prejudices of empire, poverty, and the problem of women’s education and labor–issues that will be taken up by the likes of Austen, Gaskell, the Brontes, Dickens, etc.

No major (or even minor) academic press has taken up a critical edition of her works, and the number of articles or chapters written about her add up to about eleven (according to MLA International Bibliography). She belongs amongst these infamous scribblers in large part because she redefines the words: not infamous, perhaps, but non-famous, at least by our 20th- and 21st-century standards. As we (rightfully) add Burney, Robinson, Inchbald, Edgeworth, Wollstonecraft, C. Smith, and many more women to our syllabi and prospective projects, I think the time has come to consider this rather enigmatic and obscured Mary Brunton to see if we can determine to what extent she is, in fact, one of those infamous scribbling women.


About Rachel

Doctoral Candidate in Literature

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on March 11, 2013 by .

A discussion of interesting books from my current stock A site

Infamous Scribblers

women writers of the long eighteenth century

The Crooke Book

Adventures in early modern anatomy


women writers of the long eighteenth century

The Early Modern World

women writers of the long eighteenth century


women writers of the long eighteenth century

The Thesis Whisperer

Just like the horse whisperer - but with more pages

Georgian London

women writers of the long eighteenth century

Everything Early Modern Women

All things to do with the study of early modern women.

A Vindication of the Rights of Mary

women writers of the long eighteenth century

Women's History Month


Dr Alun Withey

Welcome to my blog! I am an academic historian of medicine and the body, and 2014 AHRC/BBC 'New Generation Thinker'. Please enjoy and let me know what you think.

Early Modern Notes

crime, women, digital history...

Austenprose - A Jane Austen Blog

Join the celebration of Jane Austen novels, movies, sequels and the pop culture she has inspired

The Miserables

Write. Dream. Hope. Leave.

%d bloggers like this: