chapter  4
12 Pages

Missing persons

Lucy Hutchinson, feminist biography, and the digital archive
WithRebecca Nesvet

In 1752, George Ballard wrote in the introduction to his compendium of Memoirs of Several Ladies of Great Britain that many of his biographical subjects are newly recovered from near-oblivion. 'Very many ingenious women', Ballard claims, 'were really possessed of a great share of learning', yet 'are not only unknown to the public in general, but has passed in silence by his greatest biographers'. This remained true half a century later, when Mary Hays published Female Biography. This chapter discusses the problems which make Hays's silence about the historian, poet and political rebel Lucy Hutchinson. Hutchinson's work appeared in print under her name for the first time only in 1806, three years after Female Biography, and so Hays clearly could not have known of it in time. Hutchinson, however, was a perfect biographical subject for Hays. Hutchinson's conspicuous omission from Hays's Female Biography demonstrates the impact of access upon feminist historiography.