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Response to Review no. 831

I very much welcome Dr Carr’s rigorous and positive engagement with my book. She provides an able summary of several parts of it, and she rightly senses, underneath it all, my own ambivalent and complex response to the question, `what did the Enlightenment do for women?’ As she says, the book approaches this question by seeking to reconstruct aspects of the intellectual dialogue between England and Scotland during this period. In this dialogue, as the book makes clear, Scotland was the dominant partner. As part of this discussion, I consider the historical investigations of femininity that took place as part of the Enlightenment recovery of British ethnic heritage. However, the construction of nationality was not the end point of my enquiry, as it has been in so many excellent recent studies of gender, and I tried to get away from considering ideas about women as contributions to the `making’ of Englishness, Scottishness or Britishness. Dr Carr’s more specific point about the relatively greater emphasis on Anglican, as opposed to Presbyterian, or indeed, Catholic or Episcopalian, contexts of Enlightenment thought is very well taken. So is the wider point she raises about the `different nature of female participation in the Scottish Enlightenment’ as compared with the busy world of English Bluestocking salons. Jane Rendall’s work on the Scottish women of the Millar and Cullen family circles, and on figures such as Eliza Fletcher and Elizabeth Hamilton has opened up some fascinating avenues of enquiry, and suggests that previous assumptions about women’s participation in Scottish intellectual life may need revisiting. My book very briefly alludes to Dugald Stewart’s female intellectual circle which included Hamilton, Maria Graham, Mary Brunton and Maria Edgeworth, and to the role of his wife Helen D’Arcy Stewart as an intellectual hostess and writer. And I am aware of some current work on a much earlier female intellectual circle, the Fair Intellectual Club founded in Edinburgh in 1717. Hume, of course, insisted that all the best intellectual conversations feature women as well as men. He was clearly speaking from personal experience, and there is a great deal more research to be done if we are to understand the full extent to which those conversations took place in a Scottish, as well as an English, accent.