On 20 December 1790 Horace Walpole mentioned, in a letter to his young friend Mary Berry who was travelling in Italy, how much he admired Edmund Burke’s book Reflections on the Revolution in France. After commending Burke’s intervention as timely and effective, Walpole continued:

For Walpole, writing at the end of 1790, it is evidently Catharine Macaulay (née Sawbridge; 1731-1791) and Anna Laetitia Barbauld (née Aiken; 1743-1825) who are the foremost Amazonian poissardes (‘fishwives’, ‘market-women’) raising strident voices in favour of France, republicanism, and tolerance of dissent. The younger Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797), who had published her Vindication of the Rights of Men in response to Burke in late November, contemporaneously with Catharine Macaulay’s Observations on the Reflections of the Right Hon. Edmund Burke, is not the focus of his disdain.2 She is at most included among the

Amazonian followers of Kate and the virago Barbauld. Barbauld had not in fact responded to Burke’s published observations, but her Address to the Opposers of the Corporation and Test Acts had been written as a reply to Burke’s anticipatory comments, delivered in a speech to the Commons in February 1789.3 By the first years of the twenty-first century however, the reputations of these notorious female republicans had been almost completely swamped by Wollstonecraft’s later fame, and her subsequent elevation to the status of first modern feminist.4 This is a pity, for both Macaulay and Barbauld made significant contributions to the republican discourse of the second half of the eighteenth century. Here I offer a preliminary comparative sketch of their political views, beginning with the parallels between their lives, for Macaulay and Barbauld moved in overlapping circles and their careers followed similar trajectories. In the 1760s and 1770s their early works received considerable praise. Indeed, Walpole himself had previously seemed to be a friend of Macaulay’s. They had shared a box at the theatre to see a play in which Macaulay was satirized.5 He had arranged for her introduction to a friend in Paris, Mme du Deffand (Marie Anne de Vichy-Chamrond, marquise du Deffand; 1697-1780), and wrote in conclusion to a letter to Macaulay on 31 January 1778:

This letter is representative of earlier attitudes; but before long both women were reviled by former supporters, as they came to be identified with the most radical wing of British political thought. They were for a while ‘celebrated’, later vilified, and eventually forgotten.