Helen Maria Williams

Natasha Aleksiuk Duquette (Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College)
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In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, critics created multiple and contradictory portraits of the poet, novelist and letter writer Helen Maria Williams. She was first pictured as an earnest and slightly naive disciple of the Dissenting minister Andrew Kippis. In the 1780s critics sketched her as unsophisticated, admiring her “modesty and artless candour” (

European Magazine

1786), and William Wordsworth deployed her as an icon of feminine sensibility in his poem “On Seeing Miss Helen Maria Williams Weep at a Tale of Distress” (1787). She next appears as a political thinker, an ardent abolitionist and later, in France, a revolutionary idealist. In 1793 she was imprisoned by Robespierre and translated French literature, oral and written, from within the Luxembourg…

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Citation: Duquette, Natasha Aleksiuk. "Helen Maria Williams". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 21 March 2002 [https://www.litencyc.com/php/speople.php?rec=true&UID=4732, accessed 23 June 2024.]

4732 Helen Maria Williams 1 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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