Helen Maria Williams's first and only novel Julia has been interpreted as a reworking of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Julie, ou la Nouvelle Heloise (1761). Williams's character Julia also shares strong parallels with later poetry-loving heroines such as Adeline in Ann Radcliffe's Romance of the Forest (1791) and Marianne in Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility (1811). Mary Wollstonecraft admired Julia, and the influence of its proto-feminist themes is evident in her Maria, or the Wrongs of Woman (1798), written after Wollstonecraft met Williams in Paris. This critical edition of Julia is the first modern printing of a novel that blends the character development of a poet with critical reflections on social injustice. Written at the beginning of the French Revolution, the narrative is interspersed with poems on topics ranging from moonlight contemplations in natural landscapes to the terrors of imprisonment in the Bastille. An annotated modern edition of Julia, complete with bio-critical introduction, makes accessible a novel that reveals the interconnections between poetic sensibility, feminine sublimity and revolutionary aesthetics in late eighteenth-century Britain.
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