Sunday, January 09, 2005


Writers, Earn Extra $$$!

The Guardian reports one of the stranger stories of the week: the revelation that Mary Wollstonecraft was involved in an operation to smuggle silver out of France in 1794.

For the Norwegian coastal town of Risør, Mary Wollstonecraft had no mercy. In A Short Residence in Sweden, Norway and Denmark (1796), this pioneer of woman's rights sails along a "wild coast" to find in Risør a hotbed of secretive, unscrupulous dealings. Even the setting seems immoral: houses huddle together without proper paths. Planks make do for the passage from house to house, to be mounted like steps, under a high rock that looks to her like a Bastille, a place "shut out from all that opens the understanding, or enlarges the heart". To be born here is to be "bastilled by nature."

Wollstonecraft never mentions smuggling, obviously, but her itinerary just happens to match her efforts to recover a lost cargo of the illicit silver. Her dislike of Norway appears to have had more than a little to do with her frustration at only being able to recover £1000 worth of the load of "36 silver platters said to carry the Bourbon crest and 32 silver bars worth £3,500."

Still, I bet it's a lot more than what she got for writing A Short Residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark...

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