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
Airey, Jennifer L.
"“Abused, neglected,—unhonoured,—unrewarded”: The Economics of Authorial Labor in the Writings of Mary Robinson,"
ABO: Interactive Journal for Women in the Arts, 1640-1830: Vol.6: Iss.1, Article 1.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.usf.edu/abo/vol6/iss1/1