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Maria Edgeworth

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Man is to be held only by the slightest chains; with the idea that he can break them at pleasure, he submits to them in sport.
Letters for Literary Ladies (1795), "Julia and Caroline", Letter 1; Tales and Novels, vol. 13, p. 225.

Maria Edgeworth

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We take pleasure in watching an athlete break a record, hearing a soprano in full flight, or reading a philosopher of depth and insight. Human accomplishment is the ultimate spectator sport. Apply as much historical analysis to it as we wish, and we’ll not unlock all its mysteries. The continuous capacity of genius to surpass understanding remains a human constant.

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This conflict between the powers of love and chastity ... it ended apparently in the triumph of chastity. Love was suppressed, held in darkness and chains, by fear, conventionality, aversion, or a tremulous yearning to be pure.... But this triumph of chastity was only an apparent, a pyrrhic victory. It would break through the ban of chastity, it would emerge — if in a form so altered as to be unrecognizable.

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In America a woman loses her independence for ever in the bonds of matrimony. While there is less constraint on girls there than anywhere else, a wife submits to stricter obligations. For the former, her father's house is a home of freedom and pleasure; for the latter, her husband's is almost a cloister.

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Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

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When I break any of the chains that bind me I feel that I make myself smaller.

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