Author Biography

Jennifer L. Airey is Associate Professor of English at the University of Tulsa, where she specializes in literature of the long eighteenth century. She is the author of The Politics of Rape: Sexual Atrocity, Propaganda Wars, and the Restoration Stage (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2012), and she has published articles on authors such as Wycherley, Dryden, Fielding, and Centlivre. She currently serves as co-editor of Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature, the first scholarly journal devoted solely to the study of women's writings.


This essay examines one of the central preoccupations of Mary Robinson’s authorial career, a concern with the poor financial treatment of authors. Writers, Robinson suggests, are demeaned by predatory publishers, heartless or anti-intellectual aristocratic patrons, and a disinterested, distractible reading public, none of whom care to compensate the author for the labors of her pen. In a culture that neither recognizes nor rewards female intellect, women authors are particularly vulnerable, but Robinson’s criticisms transcend the problems caused by gender alone; male authors, too, could fall into penury when their labor was insufficiently valued. Rejecting the Romantic ethos of the solitary genius dying for his art, Robinson calls for a reassessment of authorship’s value, not only as a social and cultural good, but as a valid form of work; she insists that mental labor is labor in the economic sense of the term, and that it deserves compensation with a living wage. Her writings are thus marked by a keen sense of disgust at a culture that neither recognizes economic value in literary creation, nor feels obligated to remunerate the artist for her creations.


Mary Robinson, authorship, economics, Thomas Chatterton