Loading...
Harriet Martineau entry: Overview screen.
Cite
Overview
Writing
Life
Writing and Life
Timeline
Excerpts
Works By
Harriet Martineau began her career as a professional writer, which spanned more than four decades in the mid nineteenth century, with writing from a Unitarian perspective on religious matters. She made her name with her multi-volume series (initially twenty-five volumes, followed by further series) of narrative expositions of political economy. One of the founders of sociology, who believed "that social affairs proceed according to great general laws, no less than natural phenomena," Bibliographic Citation link. she produced several major contributions to this emerging field. She wrote broadly in periodicals and regularly for a newspaper on social and political issues, and produced three books of observations emerging from her foreign travels. Although her two three-volume novels were not particularly successful, her work had a great impact on later Victorian fiction. She also wrote history, biography, and household manuals. Her advocacy of mesmerism and her atheism made some of her later writings controversial. In her eminently readable autobiography and other writings she presents a cogent analysis of conditions shaping the lives of Victorian women. Although she became hugely influential—one of the most prominent women writers of her day—Harriet Martineau eschewed notions of genius. Her crucial contribution to Victorian feminist thought has frequently been overlooked. Bibliographic Citation link.
Milestones
12 June 1802 HM was born in Magdalen Street, Norwich, the sixth among eight children and the third daughter. Bibliographic Citation link.
October and December 1822 Under her pseudonym of 'Discipulus', HM first reached print with an article in the Unitarian Monthly Repository on "Female Writers on Practical Divinity", issued in two parts. In February 1823 she published another article "On Female Education". Bibliographic Citation link.  scholarly note link.
1827 HM's short story "The Rioters", presaging some of her later writings, marked a decisive step towards industrial fiction or the social problem novel; initially anonymous, it appeared in a later issue with her name. Bibliographic Citation link.
February 1832-February 1834 Harriet Martineau published her immensely popular monthly series Illustrations of Political Economy: twenty-five didactic narratives which anticipated the social problem novel. Bibliographic Citation link.
By 18 August 1838 HM published "perhaps the first book on the methodology of social research": Bibliographic Citation link. her How to Observe. Morals and Manners. Bibliographic Citation link.
28-30 December 1869 Signing herself 'An Englishwoman', HM wrote three letters to the Daily News decrying the Contagious Diseases Acts. Bibliographic Citation link.
27 June 1876 HM died in a coma, of a slow-growing ovarian tumour, at her home in Ambleside in the Lake District. Bibliographic Citation link.
Writing Highlights
Back to Top