Rare First Editions of Both Volumes

Course of Popular Lectures, as Delivered by Frances Wright, in New-York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Louisville, and other Cities, Towns and Districts of the United States ... [With:] Course of Popular Lectures, Historical and Political, as Delivered by Frances Wright Darusmont ... Vol. II.

New York: Published at the Office of the Free Enquirer, 1829; Philadelphia: Published by the Author, 1836.

Price: $8,500.00


About the item

First editions of both volumes. 239, [1, blank]; [4], [iii]-xxiv, [25]-90, [2, blank] pp. Vol. 1 uncut. 2 vols. 8vo and 12mo. Rare First Editions of Both Volumes. Contemporary boards, rebacked [vol. 1] and later pink paper wrappers [vol. 2]. Foxing to vol. 1, small library at the bottom of the second leaf in vol. 2. Sabin 105588 and 105589.

Item #352431

Born in Scotland, radical reformer, abolitionist, feminist, and utopian socialist Fanny Wright first came to America in 1818. After a few years, she published her epistolary travelogue of her time as Views of Society and Manners in America (1821) to popular acclaim. Her work prompted a friendship with Lafayette, whom she accompanied in his farewell visit to America in 1824. After viewing conditions of slavery in the south and spending time at Richard Owen's utopian settlement at New Harmony, she became an abolitionist and opened her own settlement in Tennessee, naming it Nashoba and intending for it to be a place for slaves to work toward emancipation from their masters and receive education. The experiment, however, proved a failure, and ceased in 1828.

"One lesson she had learned was that it was in the centers of population, and not in isolated utopian colonies, that social reform must be pursued. In the summer of 1828, while living in New Harmony and helping edit the New Harmony Gazette, she learned that a religious revival was sweeping the city of Cincinnati. Taking up 'the cause of insulted reason and outraged humanity' she instituted a series of anticlerical lectures there. In 1829 she expanded her itinerary to include most of the major cities of the East and Midwest. Her addresses condemned organized religion as the chief obstacle to human happiness, barring the way to a free, unbiased pursuit of knowledge. She made an impressive appearance on the platform, her tall figure clothed in simple white muslin, her sole text a copy of the Declaration of Independence which she dramatically flourished from time to time ... [T]he unprecedented appearance of a woman on the lecture circuit – and with a message so radical – 'caused an effect that can hardly be described' (Domestic Manners, p. 72) ... The reaction of ten-year-old Walt Whitman, whose carpenter father was a staunch Fanny Wright enthusiast, was typical. Young Whitman attended her every lecture and years later described Miss Wright as 'one of the few characters to excite in me a wholesale respect and love' ... In her speaking and writing she ranged over her favorite topics and several new ones. She condemned capital punishment and demanded improvements in the status of women, including equal education, legal rights for married women, liberal divorce laws and birth control" (Notable American Women).

Wright's lectures were radical and nature and content, it being nearly unheard of for a woman to be a public speaker, let alone one pushing the boundaries of what was considered acceptable discourse. Settling in New York, she founded with Owen the Free Enquirer, a continuation of his New Harmony Gazette advocating social and political reform. The 1829 first edition of the first volume of her lectures, published at the Office of the Free Enquirer, is exceedingly scarce on the market, with no examples in the auction records for the last century. Seven years later, after several editions of her Lectures had been published, Wright began publication of a second volume, comprised of three lectures. Published by the author in Philadelphia, the last example of the second volume we could locate in the auction records sold in 1909. Wright had intended to continue the separately-published second volume with successive parts, but no further lectures would be issued.