- Martineau, Harriet
died June 27, 1876, near Ambleside, WestmorlandEnglish essayist, novelist, and economic and historical writer.She became prominent among English intellectuals of her time despite deafness and other disabilities. She first gained a large reading public with a series popularizing classical economics, published in several collections (1832–34). Her chief historical work was The History of the Thirty Years' Peace, A.D. 1816–1846 (1849), a widely read popular treatment. Her most scholarly work is a condensed translation of The Positive Philosophy of Auguste Comte (1853). Her best-regarded novel is Deerbrook (1839).
* * *▪ British authorborn June 12, 1802, Norwich, Norfolk, Englanddied June 27, 1876, near Ambleside, Westmorlandessayist, novelist, journalist, and economic and historical writer who was prominent among English intellectuals of her time. Perhaps her most scholarly work is The Positive Philosophy of Auguste Comte, Freely Translated and Condensed, 2 vol. (1853), her version of Comte (Comte, Auguste)'s Cours de philosophie positive, 6 vol. (1830–42).Martineau first gained a large reading public with a series of stories popularizing classical economics, especially the ideas of Thomas Robert Malthus (Malthus, Thomas Robert) and David Ricardo (Ricardo, David): Illustrations of Political Economy, 25 vol. (1832–34), Poor Laws and Paupers Illustrated, 10 vol. (1833–34), and Illustrations of Taxation, 5 vol. (1834). After a visit to the United States (1834–36), concerning which she wrote the incisively sociological Society in America (1837) and the more anecdotal Retrospect of Western Travel (1838), she espoused the then unpopular abolition movement (abolitionism). Her best-known novels, including Deerbrook (1839) and The Hour and the Man (1841), were also written during this period. She helped to found the popular genre of the school story with The Crofton Boys (1841) and pioneered “back to the land” journalism with her writings about her garden in England's Lake District.A trip to the Middle East (1846) led Martineau to study the evolution of religions. She became increasingly skeptical of religious beliefs, including her own liberal Unitarianism, and her avowal of atheism in the Letters on the Laws of Man's Nature and Development (1851, with H.G. Atkinson) caused widespread shock. Her chief historical work, The History of the Thirty Years' Peace, A.D. 1816–1846 (1849), was a widely read popular treatment. She also contributed voluminously to periodicals, writing some 1,600 leading articles for the Daily News between 1852 and 1866. Her Biographical Sketches (1869, enlarged 1877) was a collection of articles written for the Daily News on various well-known contemporaries, including Charlotte Brontë (Brontë, Charlotte). Martineau lost her hearing early in life and later had heart disease and other illnesses. Her candid Autobiography, edited by Maria Weston Chapman (Chapman, Maria Weston), was published posthumously (3 vol., 1877).Additional ReadingStudies of her life and works include Vera Wheatley, The Life and Work of Harriet Martineau (1957); R.K. Webb, Harriet Martineau: A Radical Victorian (1960); Valerie Sanders, Reason Over Passion: Harriet Martineau and the Victorian Novel (1986); Valerie Kossew Pichanick, Harriet Martineau (1980); Gillian Thomas, Harriet Martineau (1985); Susan Hoecker-Drysdale, Harriet Martineau, First Woman Sociologist (1992); and Caroline Roberts, The Woman and the Hour: Harriet Martineau and Victorian Ideologies (2002).
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