Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face — Daisy Ashford (1881-1972)

Margaret Mary Julia ‘Daisy’ Ashford was born on 7 April 1881 in Petersham, Surrey. At the age of nine, she wrote her first novel, The Young Visiters (or Mr Salteenas Plan), a comic story involving both class and romance in nineteenth-century England. Though Daisy wrote the novella in 1890, it was not published until 1919, at which time it gained immense popularity and was deemed a masterpiece, original spelling mistakes and all. The short book was received warmly by the public because of Daisy’s unique perspective on society seen through the eyes of a child, so much so that it was adapted into a play in 1920 and then into a musical in 1968. Although The Young Visiters was Daisy’s first book, it was not her first stab at story-telling. At the age of four, she began dictating stories to her father who would write them down for her.

Daisy Ashford. The Young Visiters. New York: George H. Doran Company, 1919.

Daisy ceased writing during her teenage years as her family moved around, and she began working as a secretary in London. Daisy married James Devlin and moved with him to Norfolk. After the publication of Visiters in 1919, several of her other stories were published the following year. But Daisy did not begin writing again until much later when she began her autobiography, which she would destroy before her death in 1972.

Perhaps the most fascinating note about Daisy’s career is her status as a child prodigy. Although some have criticized her early work as naïve and juvenile, it is not often that one becomes famous based on their work as a nine year old girl.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, born seventy-five years earlier than Daisy Ashford, displayed an even more exceptional aptitude for her craft at a remarkably early age. Elizabeth began writing poetry at the age of four and became one of the most revered female writers of the nineteenth century. Just as Daisy was creating stories with her family at an early age, Elizabeth Barrett Browning spent her childhood years creating poetry whenever she had the opportunity. At the age of twelve, Elizabeth wrote the following poem while riding in a carriage with her family to visit her sister who was recuperating at the beach. The last line of the poem presents an interesting twist. The Armstrong Browning Library holds the unpublished poem written in one of Elizabeth’s delicate notebooks.

The transcription follows:

Ye nymphs I know not all your names by rote
Bear to your King the cargo of my boat
And as you e Heavenly spirits light of Neptune’s Daughters
Hang on each wave & frolic on the waters
Pray Attend my prayer oh ye of birth divine
And let the talisman desired be mine
That I may not your sanction beg in vain
Oh let me riot in thy your wide domain
Ah bid your [Sire] not take some other whim
Attend my prayers! And teach me now to swim

Two young women with the ambition, dreams, and abilities to create such poignant and lasting works of art while still in their childhood are a testament to the power of imagination. These amazing women were able to create and share their art, overcoming the different obstacles they faced along the way, including trying to gain merit as female writers and being taken seriously  as children with profound thoughts to share.

Chicanya Njeh
Bethany Navarre
Melinda Creech

Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face — Charlotte Endymion Porter (1857-1942)

Charlotte Endymion Porter, originally named Helen Charlotte Porter, was born on January 6, 1857 in Towanda, Pennsylvania.  Charlotte adopted the middle name Endymion after a poem by John Keats.  In 1885 she graduated from Wells College in Aurora, New York.

Eight years later Porter became the editor of the journal Shakespeariana, where she met her life partner Helen Clarke.  Clarke submitted an article to Shakespeariana and Porter accepted it.  Their friendship was built upon their mutual love for Shakespeare and Robert Browning.

Porter and Clarke also founded the American Drama Society, and together they edited volumes of both Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poetry. Porter published a theatrical version of Robert Browning’s tragedy, The Return of the Druses, which she directed in 1903. She was one of the brightest literary critics and editors of her time.         Below is a signed copy of Porter’s script, featuring notes in the margin. The notes most likely were written there by a stage manager, as they list props and sound cues.

Charlotte Porter. Stage Version of Browning’s Tragedy: The Return of the Druses. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell & Company, 1902.

D. G. Brinton, “Facettes of Love From Browning,” in Poet-Lore, Vol. 1 (1889), pp. 25-26.

 In 1889 Porter and Clarke founded Poet Lore, a literary journal focused on Shakespeare, Browning, and comparative literature.  Their mission in establishing Poet Lore was to “bring Life and Letters into closer touch with each other…in a new spirit that considers literature as an exponent of human evolution.”  Although it was an American journal, it rarely featured any works written by Americans; therefore, it often introduced new writers and works to its American audience.  Poet Lore still exists today and is maintained by five editors who strive to keep the journal at the high standards set by Porter and Clarke emphasizing “openness to discovery” (  Poet Lore editor Genevieve DeLeon’s favorite quote from Porter comes from Porter reflecting on Poet Lore several years after its founding:

“Our standards were evolutionary and relative in principal in a day when the static and the has-been rather than the dynamic and coming-into-birth constituted the measure in criticism….We were champions then for what is still needed, it may be the standards that relate all aesthetic expression to evolving life.”

In 1903 Porter and Clarke sold Poet Lore and worked on many other projects together, including several editions of Browning’s poems, a six volume edition of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poetry, and a twelve volume “Pembroke” edition of Shakespeare.

Porter and Clarke committed to each other with a ring ceremony and lived together until Clarke died in 1926.  Porter continued living at their summer home in Maine until she passed away on January 16, 1942.  This poem from the first edition of Charlotte Porter’s book, “Lips of Music.” speaks about the island in Maine where she and Clarke spent their summers and where she eventually died at the age of 85.

Charlotte Porter. “Isle Au Hait” in Lips of Music. New York: Thomas Y. Cromwell & Company, 1910.

The Armstrong Browning Library has two letters written to Charlotte Porter, six books and articles by Porter, and numerous Browning volumes edited by her.

 Kimberly Dykema
Carly Connally
Melinda Creech

Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face — Mary Augusta Arnold Ward (1851-1920)

“You invite me to break the first law of storytelling, Miss Rose,” said the doctor, lifting a finger at her. “Every man is bound to leave a story better than he found it.”

  Mrs. Humphry Ward. Robert Elsmere.
London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1888, p. 63.

Mary Augusta Ward was an English novelist, journalist, philanthropist, and anti-suffrage leader who wrote under the name of Mrs. Humphry Ward. During her lifetime, she wrote three plays, nine non-fiction works, and twenty-five novels. Many of her novels depict contemporary theological and moral debates. Her most famous novel, Robert Elsmere, focuses on religious issues.

Mary Augusta Ward. Robert Elsmere. London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1888.

This novel was Ward’s most famed work due to the controversial “deconversion” of its main character from Anglican Christianity to “a liberal, antidogmatic theology.” The story was inspired in part by her own experience with the Victorian religious crisis and by the religious indecision of her father, Thomas Arnold. W. E. Gladstone, a prominent English politician and a fourtime Prime Minister, wrote a response to Ward’s work, noting that Mrs. Ward’s aim was to “expel the preternatural element from Christianity, to destroy its dogmatic structure, yet to keep intact the moral and spiritual results.”

Her social and political novels portray her conservative beliefs, concerning both liberalism and feminism. According to Judith Wilt, Professor of English Emerita at Boston College, Ward was concerned with “…the ideal of domesticity crossed by currents of personal ambition and clear-eyed impatience with the limitations of a woman’s life evident in the ideology of separate spheres.” Wilt continues stating, “As a young matron Ward was ‘all afire’ for women’s education…and she continued to see as part of the inherited ‘domestic’ territory to be legislated and run by women as well as men not only all branches of education but also all health and social service professions, and even “local government,” including school boards, municipal boards, and other offices and activities that had become gender-neutrally votable and electable by the 1880’s. For her, ‘domesticity’ included virtually all the national business.  When in her anti-suffrage campaigns she drew the line at giving women the vote for Parliament members it was partly a not-unhealthy impatience with what we might now call the fetishization of that object, and partly a curtsy before Empire, a hesitation before the international ministries for finance, heavy industry, and war.” (Judith Wilt, Behind Her Times: Transition England In The Novels Of Mary Arnold Ward, Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, p. 14.)

The Armstrong Browning Library owns forty-one volumes authored by Mary Ward, including Fenwick’s Career, which was published in London by Smith, Elder, & Co. in 1906. This edition was printed on hand-made paper. Only two hundred and fifty copies were for sale with each copy autographed by the author. The ABL’s copy is No. 36, and is signed “Mary A. Ward” on the first front leaf. The book tells the story about “a boorish, conceited, masterful young countryman…[whose] supreme longing is ‘to make a name for himself and to leave his mark on English art.”


Autograph by the author, Mary Augusta Ward, on the first front leaf of Fenwick’s Career, London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1906.

Fannie Browning, wife of Robert Barrett Browning, owned a copy of Amiel’s Journal (1896), which was translated by Mrs. Ward; Robert Barrett Browning, Robert and Elizabeth’s son, owned a copy of The Marriage of William Ashe (1905), with the author’s inscription. Although the Armstrong Browning Library does not own this book, it does have a copy of the same edition once owned by Robert Barrett Browning.

 Tiffany Huynh
Maegan Rocio
Michael Moreno
Melinda Creech

Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face — Anne Isabella, Lady Ritchie, née Thackeray (1837 – 1919)

My father [William Makepeace Thackeray, a nineteenth century English novelist] was always immensely interested by the stories of spiritualism and table-turning, though he certainly scarcely believed half of them. Mrs. Browning believed and Mr. Browning was always irritated beyond patience by the subject. I can remember her voice, a sort of faint minor chord, as she, lisping the “r” a little, uttered her remonstrating “Robert!” and his loud dominant baritone sweeping away every possible plea she and my father could make; and then came my father’s deliberate notes, which seemed to fall a little sadly — his voice always sounded a little sad — upon the rising waves of the discussion.

Anne Ritchie, “Robert & Elizabeth Browning” in Records of Tennyson, Ruskin, and Browning (London: Macmillan, 1892), pp. 191-2.

Dr. Elizabeth Jay, Emeritus Professor at Oxford Brookes University, who has written extensively on women writers and the interaction of religion and literature in the nineteenth century, suggested the above quotation which concerns the Brownings’ disagreements about spiritualism. She suggests it is typical of Anne Thackeray Ritchie’s ability to recall the small intimate details of her acquaintance with the Brownings and bring those experiences to life. Lady Ritchie shares her memories of three great writers of the Victorian period in this book.  The signature “E. FitzGerald, Oct. 1, 1892” appears on the front flyleaf of the Armstrong Browning Library’s copy of this book. Eliza Fitzgerald was a good friend of Robert Browning.

Anne Ritchie was the eldest daughter of William Makepeace Thackeray, a well-known Victorian novelist. Ritchie was well acquainted with many in the literary community and was Virginia Woolf’s step-aunt. Ritchie notably wrote biographical pieces on her contemporaries, including Tennyson, the Brownings, and Julia Margaret Cameron. The photograph above was taken by Ms. Cameron. Ritchie was also popular for her modernization of fairy tales, setting them in the nineteenth century. She published the stories in several volumes, including Five Old Friends and Bluebeard’s Keys.

The Armstrong Browning Library owns twenty-six nineteenth-century editions of Anne Thackeray Ritchie’s works, including rare editions of The Story of Elizabeth: A Tale (1864), To Esther, and Other Sketches (1869), Bluebeard’s Keys, and Other Stories (1874), Toilers and Spinsters, and Other Essays (1874), Records of Tennyson, Ruskin and Browning (1892), and Alfred, Lord Tennyson and his friends; A series of 25 portraits … from the negatives of Mrs. Julia Margaret Cameron and H. H. H. Cameron (1893).

The ABL also owns 110 letters in which Anne Thackeray Ritchie was a correspondent. Many of these letters are part of the Joseph Milsand Archive and are previously unpublished. Her manuscript of “From the Roundabout Papers” is also at the library.

Melinda Creech


Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face — Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley [née Godwin], (1797–1851) Part 2

Putting together this exhibition, I have been amazed by the how closely the women writers of the nineteenth century were connected to one another.  I discovered one of these connections investigating this fragment of a letter owned by the Armstrong Browning Library.

[1830, June 18]

Maria Jane Jewsbury to Anna Brownell Jameson

 Although only the last page of the letter survives in our collection, the entire letter is printed in Anna Jameson: Letters and Friendships, edited by Mrs. Stewart Erskine, published in 1915. Maria Jane Jewsbury responds to Anna Jameson’s question about her opinion of Mary Shelley:

 As you expressed a desire to know my opinion of Mrs. Shelley, I will take the present opportunity of saying, that I rarely, if ever, met with a woman to whom I felt so disposed to apply the epithet “bewitching.” I can of course merely speak of appearances, but she struck me in the light of a matured child; a union of buoyancy and depth . . . .Her hilarity, contrasted with the almost sadly profound nature of some of her remarks, somewhat puzzled me . . . . I doubt her being a happy woman, and I also doubt her being one that could be distinctly termed melancholy. . . . She reminded me of no person I ever saw but she has made me wish the arrival of the time when I am to see her again.

 Melinda Creech




Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face — Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley [née Godwin] (1797–1851)

We do not enter into society here, yet our time passes swiftly and delightfully. We read Latin and Italian during the heats of noon, and when the sun declines we walk in the garden of the hotel, looking at the rabbits, relieving fallen cockchaffers, and watching the motions of a myriad of lizards, who inhabit a southern wall of the garden. You know that we have just escaped from the gloom of winter and of London; and coming to this delightful spot during this divine weather, I feel as happy as a new-fledged bird, and hardly care what twig I fly to, so that I may try my new-found wings.

Mary Shelley
History of a Six Weeks’ Tour Through a Part of
France, Switzerland, Germany, and Holland (1817)
Letter from Geneva, 17 May 1816


Although Mary Shelley’s fame rests in her authorship of Frankenstein, published anonymously when she was twenty-one, her experiences and her publications were rich and varied. Mary Shelley’s mother Mary Wollstonecraft, was a feminist philosopher who died shortly after her daughter’s birth. Following in her mother’s footsteps, Mary also became a liberal feminist. She had an affair with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and the two eventually married, following the death of Percy’s first wife. Mary Shelley edited some of her husband’s works, and the two also composed pieces together. She also penned short stories, travelogues, and biographies.

The Armstrong Browning Library houses the Browning Library Collection—books and periodicals which were actually owned by Robert and/or Elizabeth Barrett Browning or members of their immediate family. The ABL holds approximately one-third of 2,681 items currently listed in this category in The Brownings: A Research Guide. In an effort to recreate the library owned by the Brownings, the Armstrong Browning Library initiated the Browning Library Copies Collection. These are books which, based on the most complete information available, are the same editions as the volumes once owned and used by the Brownings.

Three books, added to the Armstrong Browning Library collection in 2011, were closely associated with Mary Shelley. All are part of the Browning Library Copies Collection. The library purchased Memoirs of the Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1798), written by William Godwin, about his wife Mary Wollstonecraft; History of a Six Weeks’ Tour Through a Part of France, Switzerland, Germany, and Holland (1817) written by Mary Shelley, Godwin and Wollstonecraft’s daughter; and Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Posthumous Poems (1824), compiled by Mary Shelley.

The quotation above is taken from Mary Shelley’s travelogue, History of a Six Weeks’ Tour Through a Part of France, Switzerland, Germany, and Holland (1817).

 Melinda Creech

Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face – Anna Brownell Jameson [née Murphy] (1794–1860)

A gifted woman may pursue a public vocation, yet preserve the purity and maintain the dignity of her sex. . . there is no prejudice which will not shrink away before moral energy, and no profession which may not be made compatible with the respect due to us as women, the cultivation of every feminine virtue, and the practice of every private duty.

Anna Brownell Jameson
Visits and Sketches at Home and Abroad
London: Saunders and Otley, 1834, p. 271.

The quotation above, suggested by Dr. Cheri L. Larsen Hoeckley, Professor of English and Coordinator of Gender Studies at Westmont College, comes from an essay Jameson wrote on the actress Sarah Siddons, whom she found fascinating.

It seems Miss Jameson was passionate about quite a lot of things.

She was born in Dublin, the eldest of five daughters of Denis Brownell Murphy, an Irish miniature painter and his wife. The family moved to England in 1798 and eventually settled in Hanwell, near London. Anna was educated at home, and at sixteen became a governess in the family of Charles Paulet, the 13th Marquis of Winchester. In 1821 she was engaged to Robert Jameson, but the engagement was broken off, and Anna accompanied the Rowles family to Europe as a governess for their daughter Laura. She wrote a fictitious account of her travels, published in 1826 as The Diary of an Ennuyée.

In 1821, Anna became the governess to the children of Edward Littleton, later know as Baron Hatherton, finally marrying Robert Jameson in 1825. The marriage proved to be unhappy. When Robert Jameson was appointed Puisne Judge in the Island of Dominica in 1829, the couple separated, and Anna visitied the Continent with her father and Sir Gerard Noel, perhaps as a governess for Noel’s daughter, Harriet Jane. She made her first visit to Germany, aquiring there a passion for German art and literature.

In 1833, Robert Jameson received a new appointment as chief justice of the upper province of Canada, and in 1836 he summoned his wife to Canada. He failed to meet her in New York, and she was left to make her way alone in the winter. After eight months of traveling in Canada and the United States, she felt it useless to continue a life far from all ties of family happiness and opportunities for a woman of her class and education. Before leaving, she undertook a journey to the depths of the Indian settlements in Canada. She explored Lake Huron, and saw much of emigrant and aboriginal life unknown to colonial travelers.

She returned to England in 1837 and devoted her life to writing, chiefly to support her parents and sisters. She had passionate relationships with Lady Byron and Ottolie van Goethe, and her many friends included Catherine Sedgwick, Jane Carlyle, George Eliot, Fanny Kemble, Harriet Martineau, Mary Russell Mitford, and Elizabeth Gaskell. She was a friend of both Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning. It was she who assisted the poets on their journey from Paris to Pisa just after their marriage.

Mrs. Jameson was deeply concerned with the legal and educational concerns of women. Her travel writings enlighten female roles and responses. In her much acclaimed art and literary criticism, she expands the aesthetic context to propound her views on womanhood. She wrote of women celebrated in poetry, female sovereigns, and Restoration beauties. Her Shakespeare’s Heroines: Characteristics of Women analyzes the female characters of Shakespeare’s works.

Anna’s financial need, and that of her family, remained acute, although from 1851, she had a Civil List pension. In her later writings she treats the plights of governesses and the need for wider female employment opportunities. Her celebrated lectures, published as Sisters of Charity, Catholic and Protestant, at home and abroad (1855) and The Communion of Labour: a second lecture on the social employments of women (1856) focus on the pressing controversy over “Superabundant Women” and praise the good work and courage demonstated by women united in communities, while strongly rejecting any separatist ethic. Partly spurred by a sense of injustice on being omitted from her husband’s will in 1854, Anna actively supported a group of young reformers and educational pioneers including Adelaide Procter, Emily Faithful, and Barbara Bodichon. With Bessie Parkes, she helped initiate the English Women’s Journal, (1858-64).

She died on March 17, 1860.

The Armstrong Browning Library has an extensive collection of the writings of this essayist, fiction and travel writer, biographer, and literary and art critic. It consists of twelve nineteenth century books by Anna Brownell Jameson, nine letters from the Brownings, and forty-two letters to or from other Victorian correspondents.

 Melinda Creech

[1835], August 31. Anna Brownell Jameson to [Eliza Murphy]. The letter above, written to her sister, Eliza Murphy, from Vienna, describing her travels and time spent with friends, is cross-written to conserve paper and postage.

Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face – Felicia Dorothea Hemans [née Browne] (1793–1835)

The boy stood on the burning deck
Whence all but he had fled;
The flame that lit the battle’s wreck
Shone round him o’er the dead.

Yet beautiful and bright he stood,
As born to rule the storm;
A creature of heroic blood,
A proud, though child-like form.

The flames rolled on–he would not go
Without his Father’s word;
That father, faint in death below,
His voice no longer heard.

He called aloud–’say, Father, say
If yet my task is done?’
He knew not that the chieftain lay
Unconscious of his son.

‘Speak, father!’ once again he cried,
‘If I may yet be gone!’
And but the booming shots replied,
And fast the flames rolled on.

Upon his brow he felt their breath,
And in his waving hair,
And looked from that lone post of death
In still yet brave despair.

And shouted but once more aloud,
‘My father! must I stay?’
While o’er him fast, through sail and shroud,
The wreathing fires made way.

They wrapt the ship in splendour wild,
They caught the flag on high,
And streamed above the gallant child,
Like banners in the sky.

There came a burst of thunder sound–
The boy–oh! where was he?
Ask of the winds that far around
With fragments strewed the sea!–

With mast, and helm, and pennon fair,
That well had borne their part–
But the noblest thing which perished there
Was that young faithful heart.

“Casabianca” in
The Poetical Works of Mrs. Felicia Hemans,
New York: James C. Derby, 1854.

Felicia Hemans, who published nearly 400 poems during her lifetime, was a popular poet during the Romantic era. Her poetry included sonnets, lyrics, narratives, dramas, and polemics. Although some critics consider her style merely decorative, others recognize in her poems a critical study of politics and gender and trace her influence in the dramatic lyrics of the Brownings, Tennyson, Kipling, Sigourney, Longfellow, Whittier, and Harper. The ABL owns thirteen of Hemans’ books.

The first line of the poem above is instantly recognizable to many people, committed to memory in elementary school days. Susan Wolfson, editor of Felicia Hemans: Selected Poems, Letters, Reception Materials (2010), agrees that the beginning lines from “Casabianca” are probably Hemans most familiar, but points out that the poem is “much edgier than its reputation as a sentimental favorite would have it.” Citing Heman’s own footnote describing the circumstances of the poem, Wolfson reminds us that Hemans, a loyal British subject, writes sympathetically about Nelson’s opponent in the Battle of the Nile, heroizing the French boy and lifting her female voice to descry the loss of a child martyr and his useless filial loyalty to a patriarchal agenda and command.

Melinda Creech

from The Poetical Works of Mrs. Felicia Hemans,
Boston: Phillips, Sampson, and Company,
New York: James C. Derby, 1854
accessed through
The 19th Century Women Poets Collection
at Baylor University.

Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face – Mary Russell Mitford (1787–1855)

The slightest emotion of disinterested kindness that passes through the mind improves and refreshes that mind, producing generous thought and noble feeling, as the sun and rain foster your favourite flowers. Cherish kind wishes, my children; for a time may come when you may be enabled to put them in practice.

Mary Russell Mitford
Our Village: Sketches of Rural Character and Scenery
London: Ward, Lock and Company, 1870
“The Residuary Legatee,” vol. 5, p. 145

Mary Russell Mitford was the only daughter of a father with excessive spending habits. At age ten Mitford won a substantial sum of money in a lottery, which her father quickly spent. Mitford had to work hard to earn enough to support both herself and her father. Luckily, Mitford’s writing was well liked and she and her father were able to survive primarily on the proceeds of her literature. As a poet, novelist, dramatist, and playwright, Mitford was a diverse writer but her prose was the most popular.

Mitford was a close friend and frequent correspondent of Elizabeth Barrett’s, particularly before Barrett’s marriage to Robert Browning. Their letters to each other are full of literary commentary as well as discussions of their daily lives. As a token of their friendship, Miss Mitford gave Elizabeth Barrett an important gift—Flush, EBB’s beloved spaniel. The Armstrong Browning Library has 24 volumes written by Miss Mitford and nine letters.

One of Miss Mitford’s acquaintances was John Kenyon, who was a distant cousin of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. This letter from Miss Mitford to Mr. Kenyon talks about geranium seeds given to her by Miss Catharine Sedgwick, then progresses to a review of Miss Sedgwick’s book, presents an offer to share geranium cuttings with Mr. Kenyon, and ends with a discussion of American authors. The letter provides a glimpse into this popular and appealing author, known for her unaffected spontaneous humor, quick wit, and literary skill.

Melinda Creech

Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face – Maria Edgeworth (1768-1849)

The law, in our case, seems to make the right; and the very reverse ought to be done – the right should make the law.

Maria Edgeworth
“The Grateful Negro”
Popular Tales (1804)

Maria Edgeworth was born in England but moved to Ireland at the age of five following her mother’s death. Primarily educated in London, she returned to Ireland to care for her siblings after her father fell ill. Many of her early works documented life in Ireland and celebrated Irish culture.

Edgeworth also wrote children’s novels with moral lessons. Her popular Parent’s Assistant, or Stories for Children is a collection of short stories reflecting her view that boys and girls ought to receive equal education. Sir Walter Scott, Maria’s friend, was inspired by her novel, The Absentee, to publish his own novels, attempting “to emulate the admirable Irish portraits drawn by Miss Edgeworth.”

Maria lived during the Irish famine and worked tirelessly for the relief of the Irish peasants. Although after her father’s death she assumed the management of the family estate, she continued to write. She sold her last novel, Orlandino, at the end of the great Irish famine “to raise a little money for our parish poor.”

Kathryn J. Kirkpatrick, Professor of English at Appalachian State University in North Carolina, who has prepared edition of both Belinda and Castle Rackrent, notes that Edgeworth, thankfully, is these days often read within the British canon along with writers like Jane Austen. Kirkpatrick, however, enjoyed working with Edgeworth’s deep engagement with her Irish context.

 Melinda Creech

The Armstrong Browning Library owns five volumes authored by Maria Edgeworth and one letter written by her. In this letter Maria Edgeworth, always concerned with the fair treatment of her tenants, is advocating on behalf of her tenant’s son, Archy Wilson, for his position with the Earl of Desmond.