Lives of Wives (Laura Riding Jackson) pdf, epub, doc

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"Modern history really begins with the founding of the Persian Empire. The first emphatic punctuation in history after this is the time of Alexander and Aristotle; and the next after that is the time of Herod the Great. In the language of Daniel: ancient times were of gold and silver; the age of Cyrus the Persian was of brass; the age of Alexander, of iron, later mixed with clay. And then came the stone which broke into pieces this image of many metals: unhewn stone, like that of the altar of burnt-offerings at Jerusalem. I have called my version of these three crucial ages preceding the Christian Era LIVES OF WIVES because the principal male characters are here written of as husbands rather than as heroes."

So reads the Foreword to this remarkable study of ancient history, first published in 1939, shortly after Riding's Collected Poems. Riding rewrites history, employing factual accuracy to reconceive what the history books have left out, foregrounding what male-dominated societies have left to the background and imagination. And what we perceive in Riding's recounting is that women of these periods were major forces of history, not simply passive receivers of the attentions of great men but the stimulus and cause of events. Edwin Muir wrote of this book upon its original publication: "The great virtue of this book is that it sees life in a pattern, and war, murder, sudden death and 'the domestic hearth of life' as part of the pattern; it sees life historically, that is to say, and at the same time from a vantage above history."

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