New-York: Re-published by Wm. Cobbett, 1800. First American edition. 12mo (6.13 x 3.88 inches), original deep blue paper boards, [i]-vi; -68 pages, untrimmed. Fragile binding chipped on the spine, somewhat rubbed; joints tender but sound; in good to very good condition. Item #20417
“To smother, in dissipation, her passion for Fuseli, Miss W. had fled to France. There she met with a paramour responsive to her sighs, a Mr. Imlay: with him she formed a connection, though not a matrimonial one.” One of the most notorious of the scurrilous anti-feminist (and anti-Jacobin) satirical poems of the period, larded with plenty of critical footnotes attacking women authors and especially harsh in its criticism of Wollstonecraft. This edition of the Polwhele stands as perhaps the capstone of Cobbett’s Federalist anti-feminist activities in America. Cobbett notes in his preface, “he exhibits a fearful example in Mary Wollstonecraft, from the contemplation of whose disgraceful life and whose melancholy end he leads them to the chearing society of another group of Females, who are sufficiently characterised by placing at their head the incomparable Miss Hannah More.” Evans 38293; Gaines 126: “The preface is by Cobbett. . . . Advertised as ‘just published’ in the Rush-Light for 30th April 1800 (No. 55). Account Book Sale Date May 1, 1800. The Book records sales of 89 copies.” Cobbett asked an ambitious price for the Polwhele (five bits) and one might compare his sales of 89 copies of this title in his account book to his 1798 edition of Monk Lewis’s (post hoc) eponymous Ambrosio; or, The Monk, which sold 432 copies at two bucks a set. (One possible moral to this story is that American readers are often content to pay for the odd bleeding nun or occasional monastic erotica over explicitly sexist satirical wit—but the sample size may not suffice to draw any firm conclusions.) For more on Cobbett’s facile anti-feminist pen in the service of his conservative views while in America, see also Scherr, Arthur. “‘Hands . . . Never Made to Wield A Dagger’: William Cobbett’s Federalist Antifeminism, 1795–1800.” The Historian 64, no. 3/4 (2002): 491–511. (Scherr seemingly does not notice Cobbett’s edition of Polwhele.) That Linnean botany was also corrupting of innocent girls is a theme visited here by Polwhele; see also.