David Sigler




This article examines several cross-cultural texts by the late-eighteenth century British writer Helen Maria Williams, to identify Williams’s strategies for political rhetoric in international contexts. Williams tends to use aesthetic metaphors, such as sketching or harp-playing, as a way of seizing the contingency of the moment and making possible a way of thinking about current events from the “future.” The example texts are the 1790 first volume of her Letters Written in France, where Williams engages with the arguments of Edmund Burke; her 1815 verbal “sketch” of Napoleon Bonaparte, which she says only the future can reveal; and the conclusion of her 1784 poem Peru, which celebrates “the future triumphs” of Peruvian culture in the wake of centuries of violent Spanish colonization.


KEYWORDS: Helen Maria Williams, French Revolution, colonialism, futurity, verbal sketch, metaphor and simile

DOI: 10.30395/WSR.202312_17(1).0002