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from Cambridge University Library

Part 1: Rare printed autobiographies covering thirty-three womens lives, 1713-1859

Part 2: Rare printed autobiographies covering twenty-two womens lives, 1780-1889

Detalied Listing - Part 1


ALEXANDER, Mary, 1760-1809
Some Account of the Life and Religious Experience of Mary Alexander, Late of Needham Market.
Editor William Alexander (author’s brother). York 1811 {4}

Mary Alexander was born at Needham Market, Suffolk into a Quaker family of lower middle class. Her father, Dykes Alexander, was a Quaker elder and her mother, Martha Biddle, a Quaker minister. Alexander was one of six children. She became a Quaker Religionist aged 17 and received permission to preach at the age of 23, ‘determining henceforth to forsake all ‘unprofitable reading’ and stay with the Bible’. The narrative begins with her childhood, and relates her life as a travelling Quaker minister, and her lifelong spiritual introspection. Despite loneliness and depression Alexander continues as an itinerant preacher around England and Scotland, with the spiritual comfort that she helps those in need of spiritual regeneration. Her narrative is completed by her brother, William, following her death in 1809 from smallpox. The work is ‘rich in practical diary entries that give a concrete sense of women ministers’ duties on their working journeys’.

ASHBRIDGE, Elizabeth (née Sampson), 1713-1755
Quaker Gray; Some Account of the forepart of the life of Elizabeth Ashbridge, written by her own hand many years ago.
Introduction by A C Curtis. Guildford 1904 {44}

Born in Middlewich, Cheshire Elizabeth Ashbridge had a pious middle class childhood. She was raised by her mother Mary, an Anglican, while her father Thomas Sampson, a naval surgeon, was away at sea. The narrative charts her life, thoughts and emotions through three marriages, as an emigrant in America, a religious conversion to Quakerism, and her eventual return to Britain to preach in 1853. In adolescence aged 14 Ashbridge runs away to marry, and is widowed after five months. Her father does not allow her to return home, and she goes to live with Quaker relatives in Dublin. In 1732 she travels as an emigrant to America, where she suffers physical and mental hardships as an indentured servant. In c.1734 she marries Sullivan, a schoolteacher, and becomes a teacher herself. During this time she is drawn to the Quaker faith. Sullivan has a short temper and fondness for drink which result in physical and mental abuse. Ashbridge works as a teacher and Quaker minister in New England and New York. In 1846 she marries Aaron Ashbridge, and later returns to Britain to preach. This account gives insights into 18th century life in both America and Britain on religion, education, social customs, women’s employment during America’s colonial period, and the practice of semi-legal kidnapping of British citizens to serve indentures in the colonies.

ASHFORD, Mary Ann, 1787-c.1840
Life of a Licensed Victualler’s Daughter, Written by Herself.
London 1844 {46}

Mary Ashford was born into a London working-class family in 1787. Her father, Joseph Ashford was a skinner and tanner, and her mother (not named) both died leaving Ashford an orphan. The narrative relates, ‘vivid emotional reactions to childhood experiences, followed by adult occupational and financial difficulties’. As a child Ashford hated school because of the ridicule she suffered as a charity student. When orphaned she went into poorly paid domestic service. She marries twice, both husbands in military service, and recalls the financial problems that ensued. Firstly, the frustrated attempts to collect her first husband’s military pension, and in her second marriage finding her six children barred from living in military quarters. Ashford’s narrative illustrates the difficulties faced by widows and orphans of the lower classes in the early 19th century, and she openly discusses the ‘callousness of prevailing employee-servant relationships’.

other works included:

An argument for construing largely the right of an appellee of murder, to insist on his Wager of Battle, and also for abrogating writs of appeal. By E A Kendall. London. [1817]

Wager of Battle. Thornton and Mary Ashford; or an antidote to prejudice. London [1818]

Thornton’s Trial!!! The Trial of Abraham Thornton for the murder of M Ashford. [1817]

An investigation of the case of Abraham Thornton, who was tried at Warwick, August 8, 1817, for the wilful murder, and afterwards arraigned for the rape, of Mary Ashford; (of which charges he was that day acquitted. London. [1818]

CANDLER, Ann (née More), 1740-1814
Poetical Attempts, by Ann Candler, a Suffolk Cottager, with a Short Narrative of Her Life.
Ipswich 1803 {202}

Ann Candler was the daughter of William More glove maker in Yoxford, Suffolk, and mother née Holder. This autobiographical memoir takes the form of a letter to her patroness; it is bound with her poems, and relates her marital and financial problems. The loss of three of her nine children in infancy, desertion by her husband who enlisted as a soldier, and her life in the workhouse are all described. The troubled life of Candler reveals the ‘circumstances of enlisted soldier’s families during the 18th century, and the conditions and terms of existence within workhouses’.

CAPPE, Catharine (née Harrison), 1744-1821
Memoirs of the Life of the Late Mrs Catharine Cappe. Written by Herself.
London 1822 {204}

Born at Long Preston, Craven, Yorkshire Catharine Cappe’s autobiography describes her ‘devout Yorkshire upbringing, marriage to a clergyman, and later social reform work, c.1750-1812. She was the daughter of the Revd Jeremiah Harrison, a Church of England Clergyman, and her mother, née Winn. In 1788 Catharine married Newcome Cappe, a minister, who died two years later leaving Catharine with 6 stepchildren. The author takes us into the life of an Evangelical social reformer who established a Female Benefit Club for miners’ wives and daughters in Yorkshire and founded District Committees of Ladies to help poor women throughout the country. Cappe urges readers, ‘to be vigilant lest they fall into ‘whirlpools of vice and folly’ sets the moral tone of her book’ which reveals ‘social customs, religious trends and gender roles’.


CAPPE, Catharine
other works included:
Observations on Charity Schools, Female Friendly Societies, and other subjects connected with the views of the Ladies Committee.
York. 1805

Thoughts on various Charitable Institutions, and on the best mode of conducting them.
York. 1814

Thoughts on the desirableness and utility of ladies visiting the female wards of hospitals and lunatic asylums.
London. 1816

CARY, Catharine E, c.1700-c.1825
Memoirs of Miss C E Cary, Written by Herself, Who was Retained in the Service of the Late Queen Caroline.
London 1825 3 vols {213}

Particulars of the early life of the author are intentionally vague and improbable. Born in England of unknown parentage, with her father allegedly a Roman Catholic duke, and her husband from a marriage c.1817 also not named. As a member of the aristocracy she claims to have known Queen Caroline, and Lord Palmerston, among others. It is thought ‘Cary’s work is effectively a roman-à-clef designed to lure contemporary readers familiar with the Queen Caroline affair into trying to identify each of her veiled characters.’ It is supposed that ‘Miss Cary’ was a servant of the queen who witnessed events in court, and as such provides ‘one of the few first-hand records of the Regency era’s covert power struggles.’


CHARKE, Charlotte (née Cibber), 1713-1760
A Narrative of the Life of Mrs Charlotte Charke, Youngest Daughter of Colley Cibber, Esq.
London 1755 {216}

The narrative of Charlotte Charke describes her life and experiences as an actress, a cross-dresser and a famous playwright’s daughter, through periods of prosperity and poverty. Her father was Colley Cibber, the well-known actor, theatre manager and playwright, and her mother Katharine Shore, an actress. The author made her debut on the London stage aged 17, and her great success as Macheath in the Beggar’s Opera, 1744-45 is described. There is much on the 18th century theatre and Charke, who also wrote farces for the stage, knew Henry Fielding and David Garrick. Charke’s self-destructive escapades angered her father and alienated her from most of her family, and when her father died she received no part of the estate. This swashbuckling account of the author’s life resembles a ‘picaresque 18th century fiction’ in the style of Fielding, although Charke’s historical identity is not in question. The author’s proclivity for cross-dressing makes her account of importance to ‘historians of gender and gay studies, who will find it one of the most complete early accounts of a ‘passing women.’’ Her writings include The Mercer (c.1765), The History of Henry Dumont, Esq.; and Miss Charlotte Evelyn (1756) and The Lover’s Treat (1758).

COGHLAN, Margaret (née Moncrieffe), c.1763-?
Memoirs of Mrs Coghlan, Daughter of the Late Major Moncrieffe, Written by Herself.
London 1794 2 vols {231}

Born in Dublin, Ireland Margaret Coughlan was the daughter of Major Moncrieffe, a British Army officer, and Margaret Jephson. Coghlan’s mother died at the age of 20 leaving the author and her brother, then aged 3 & 5 to be brought up by friends and family on both sides of the Atlantic. Coughlan’s narrative describes her life and experiences in Ireland, America, France and England, through childhood, marriage and ‘financial accommodations with a series of lovers, 1760-1794’. She knew General Gage, Frederick Jay, Lord Thomas Clinton and the Comte d’Artois. ‘This classically picaresque 18th century memoir seems to be genuine, naming real names and providing precise details of troop movements during America’s Revolutionary War’. Coughlan’s relationships as ‘kept mistress’ show how women, who were unprotected by marriage or male relatives, were in a situation of greater legal disadvantage than men. The author’s opinions show signs ‘of a feminist sensibility that takes this memoir out of the ordinary.


CRAVEN, Lady Elizabeth, Baroness Craven (née Berkeley, later Margravine of Anspach), 1750-1828.
Memoirs of the Margravine of Anspach. Written by Herself.
London 1826 2 vols {258}

Elizabeth Craven was born into an aristocratic family, her father was Augustus, 4th Earl of Berkeley, and her mother Elizabeth Drax, later, Lady Nugent. Craven’s memoirs, contained in two volumes, recall her childhood and adult life in European Court society during the 1750s - c.1806. She describes her visits and experiences of the royal families at courts in France, Italy, Austria, Poland, St Petersburg, Berlin and Prussia. The author also writes about her marriage to William Craven, later Baron Craven, and her family of seven children. Also, her love affair with the margrave of Anspach, whom she later marries. The author also mixed in literary circles and knew Horace Walpole, Dr Johnson, David Garrick, Sir Joshua Reynolds and the bluestocking, Elizabeth Montagu. Craven’s memoir ‘serves as a vast compendium of behind-the-scenes actions in European history of the late 18th century [providing] vital details of dynastic secrets, covert decisions, and crucial relationships between rulers,’ and is considered ‘among the best contemporary memoirs of the period’.


CROWLEY, Ann, 1766-1826
Some Expressions of Ann Crowley, Daughter of Thomas and Mary Crowley, of London.
London 1774

Some Account of the Religious Experience of Ann Crowley.
Lindfield 1842 {263}

Ann Crowley’s narrative describes her childhood conversion, and extensive travels as an itinerant preacher of the Quaker faith. Cowley was born into a lower middle class family in Shillingford, Oxfordshire and was one of 8 daughters; her parents are not named. At the age of 16 she received a visitation from God. Following the deaths of her father and a sister, and the loss of three sisters to marriage she understood that she must rely on the consolation of God to overcome her bereavements. In 1796 she obtained permission to travel and preach as a Quaker minister, and she journeyed throughout England, Scotland and Wales. Crowley’s spiritual memoirs serve as didactic models for converts and as testimonial of the author’s true vocation. The history of her personal life if placed in the context of the effect of her spiritual work.

DUDLEY, Mary (née Stokes), 1750-1823
The Life of Mary Dudley, including an Account of Her Religious Engagements and Extracts from Her Letters, with an Appendix Containing Some Account of the Illness and Death of Her Daughter Hannah Dudley.
Editor Elizabeth Dudley, author’s daughter. London 1825 {307}

The autobiography of Mary Dudley covers her life from childhood, through religious conversions from Anglicanism to Methodism to Quakerism, and her travels as an itinerant Quaker missionary. As a child she has a liking for ‘vain amusements’. At age 20 she is shocked out of her vanity by the death of her grandmother, and the realisation of the brevity of life. At this time she begins looking for communion with God, and joins the Methodists, then the Society of Friends, and in 1773 joins the Quakers travelling as a missionary. Leaving her husband and seven children at home she travels through Ireland, England, Scotland and the Channel Islands, and to Europe where she preached to Anabaptist and Moravian congregations. The text contains the author’s memoirs, letters and diary extracts, together with the editor’s biographical notes. The work offers a richness as a day-to-day journal documenting the growth of Quaker missionary activities in the 18th and 19th centuries.

ELLIOTT, Grace Dalrymple, Lady, 1765-1823
The Journal of My Life During the French Revolution.
London 1859 {321}

Elliott’s memoir is an eye-witness account of a British aristocrat and confirmed royalist during the early years of the French Revolution from 1789-c.1794. Her narrative includes notes on the fall of the Bastille, and the excesses of the Paris mob, a description of the attack on the Tuileries, hiding Swiss soldiers in her house, helping the Marquis de Chansenets to escape from Paris, and the Reign of Terror following the King’s execution, 1793. The author is imprisoned for conspiracy for eighteen months before her release and return to England. On her return George III commanded her to write her memoirs of the French Revolution. The narrative was disseminated among Britain’s upper circles, who were themselves fearful of unrest within England. In 1814 Elliott renewed her liaison with the Prince of Wales, later William IV, the father of her daughter.

GRANT, Anne (née MacVicar), 1755-1838
Memoirs of an American Lady: With Sketches of Manners and Scenes in America as They Existed Previous to the Revolution.
London 1809 Second edition 2 vols {405}

Contained in two volumes, Anne Grant records both her personal memories and experiences of colonial life, and a finely detailed account of American history from the second half of the 18th century to c.1810s. Her father, Duncan MacVicar, officer in the 77th infantry, was military chaplain in Oswego, and later the Albany Settlement. Volume 1 includes details on the history of the Albany Settlement; the early Dutch settlers; the culture and customs of the Five Nations: Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas and Senecas; black slavery and the author’s personal opposition to slavery. Volume 2 includes details on the outbreak of the French and Indian war; how the author aged 3 and her mother are the first European females to travel so far into the wilderness; the solitary living conditions at Albany; and a family journey down the Hudson River. Her writings include: Original Poems with Some Translations from the Gaelic (1803), Letters from the Mountains (1806) and Popular Models and Impressive Warnings for the Sons and Daughters of Industry (1815).


GURNEY, Priscilla Hannah, 1757-1828
Memoir of the Life and Religious Experience of Priscilla Hannah Gurney.
Editor Susanna Corder London 1856 {423}

The narrative of Priscilla Gurney charts her personal religious journey from a Quaker childhood to conversion to the Church of England, and then a return to the Quaker faith and itinerant preaching throughout England, c.1763-1824. In adolescence the author relates having confusing spiritual signs, and aged 15 is persuaded by friends to receive baptism into the Anglican Church, in defiance of her uncle David Barclay, a Quaker writer. Further spiritual dissatisfaction results in illness and her return to the Quaker faith. ‘While other Quaker memoirs help clarify details of the Quakers’ evangelism throughout the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Gurney’s account stresses Quakerism’s cultural aspects and social consciousness’. Other distinguished Quaker family members include her paternal grandfather Joseph Gurney the preacher, as well as her cousin Elizabeth Gurney Fry a prison reform advocate, and her brother John Joseph Gurney, both leading figures in the anti-slavery cause.

HERBERT, Dorothea, 1770-1829
Retrospections of Dorothea Herbert, 1770-1789, 1789-1806.
London 1929, 1930 2 vols {453}

Dorothea Herbert, born in County Kilkenny, Ireland was the daughter of Nicholas Herbert clergyman, and Martha Cuffe daughter of Lady Desart. In her autobiography Herbert describes her life and experiences in 18th century upper class Irish society. Volume 1 concentrates on the first nineteen years from 1770-1789. Details include her education, studying dancing, music and drawing, her social debut, women’s fashions c. 1780, attending weddings and being courted by beaux including John Roe. Family history includes a visit to the Desart family seat. Political and social history includes listing the causes and consequences of the parish rebellions of 1781-82. Volume 2, 1789-1806 recounts her love affair with John Roe, and his later betrayal of her, and relates further details of her domestic life, and Anglo-Irish contemporary events.

JEMISON, Mary, 1743-1833
Deh-he-wa-mis: or a Narrative of the Life of Mary Jemison: otherwise called the White Woman.
Editor James E Seaver. Shebbear, Devon, USA 1847 {502}

Mary Jemison was born on the ship William and Mary in 1743 as her family were emigrating from Londonderry, Ireland to America. Her father Thomas Jemison of rural farming class and his wife Jane Erwin settled with their family in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. This is an oral narrative by Jemison who describes her life as ‘an American Indian captive who adopted tribal life’, c.1743-1823. The author describes how as a child her family are attacked by the French and Shawnees, 1755, and all bar her two eldest brothers were captured, murdered and scalped. The author and another child were spared and taken captive. Jemison describes her adoption into the Seneca tribe, and tribal domestic life, her marriage to Shenijee, a Delaware who died in the Cherokee wars, and a second marriage c.1761 to Hiokatoo, a Seneca, which lasted fifty years. Also described is American General Sullivan’s invasion of New York, 1776, how the Seneca took refuge with the British at Fort Niagra, and later returned to their devastated lands. How she chose to stay with the Seneca after the Revolutionary War, and eventually in 1817 became a naturalised US citizen. The autobiography was transcribed by the editor James Everett Seaver, in first-person narration.

JOHNSTON, Elizabeth Lichtenstein, 1764-1848
Recollections of a Georgia Loyalist. Written in 1836.
Editor Rev Arthur Wentworth Eaton. New York & London 1901 {507}

In her autobiography Elizabeth Lichtenstein Johnston describes her life as daughter, mother and grandmother in Savannah, Canada, Britain and the West Indies, during the period 1764-1837. The daughter of F John Lichtenstein, a Russian emigrant and Catherine Delegal, of French Huguenot descent, she spent much of her childhood and early married life in Savannah. Lichtenstein married at age 15 to Captain William Martin Johnston, a physician in the New York Volunteers. The author provides eyewitness accounts of the American Revolutionary War describing the bombardment of Savannah, including the women’s shelters, the evacuation of the city, and the withdrawal of the rebels. Written from a partisan Tory viewpoint, this account provides rich detail of 18th century family life, describing conditions and dangers experienced by non-combatant family members of British soldiers. The author’s assessment of the deplorable state of religion and morals in Jamaica exemplifies the reactions of British travellers to new and unfamiliar cultures.


KNIGHT, (Ellis) Cornelia, 1757-1837
Autobiography of Miss Cornelia Knight, Lady Companion to the Princess Charlotte of Wales.
London 1861 2 vols {534}

Cornelia Knight records her personal reminiscences, and political and historical observations from childhood to age 60. Born into an upper class family her father was Sir Joseph Knight, rear admiral, while her mother and stepmother are not named. Details of her childhood include attending primary school in Switzerland aged 5, and travelling with her mother to Italy and France. She records details of her mother’s friendship with Thomas Gainsborough and Sir Joshua Reynolds, and memories of Samuel Johnson. She writes on Italian fashion and customs, the Italian common people’s horror of the French Revolution, and the occupation of Rome by French troops. In 1812 she enters the service of Princess Charlotte (the Queen’s daughter) at Warwick House, and she describes her personal experiences as lady companion to the princess. She also records the personal and political problems faced by the British royal family in the early 19th century. Knight’s autobiography can usefully be compared to those of Charlotte Papendiek’s Court and Private Life in the Time of Queen Charlotte, 1887 (Reel 8), and Catherine Cary’s Memoirs of Miss C E Cary, 1825 (Reel 2). Published works by Knight include: Dinarbas (1790), Flaminius (1792), Sir Guy de Lusignan (1833) and Translations from the German in Prose and Verse (1812).

MORGAN, Sydney, Lady (née Owenson), c.1783-1859
Passages from my autobiography.
London 1859 {675}

Sydney Morgan was born in Dublin, Ireland and was the daughter of Robert Owenson, composer and theatrical songwriter and mother, Jenny Hill. Her father was a relative of Oliver Goldsmith. The author married Sir Charles Morgan, physician in 1812; marrying from middle- class society to the upper classes. She was a novelist, social historian, poet, governess and political activist. Her novels include The Wild Irish Girl (1801) and Woman and Her Master (1840). The author’s memoirs recorded in Passages from my Autobiography describe, ‘the simple records of a transition existence, socially enjoyed, and pleasantly and profitably occupied, during a journey of a few months from Ireland to Italy.


MORGAN, Sydney
other work included:

Dramatic Scenes from Real Life.
London 1833 2 vols

MORTIMER, Elizabeth (née Ritchie), 1754-1835
Memoirs of Mrs Elizabeth Mortimer, with Selections from Her Correspondence.
Editor Agnes Bulmer. London 1836 {679}

Elizabeth Mortimer begins her autobiography with an account of her adolescent life, and Conversion experience at age 18. It details her struggle between the ‘pleasures of worldliness and merits of spirituality.’ Born into a Yorkshire middle-class Methodist family, her parents were F John Ritchie, a naval surgeon, and Beatrice Robinson. She received a strict religious education. Age 12 she went to live with Mrs H, a former patient, who had grown very fond of her. She describes Mrs H’s prejudice against Methodism, and the shame the author felt for her family. On a visit to York she indulges in plays, cards and company while still believing she is a good Christian. She returns to her parents, and later meets John Wesley, accepting Methodist doctrine and rejecting the worldliness of Mrs H and her friends. In 1771 following her conversion experience Mortimer kept a private spiritual diary until 1793.


PAPENDIEK, Charlotte Louise Henrietta (née Albert), 1765-1839
Court and Private Life in the time of Queen Charlotte: being the Journals of Mrs Papendiek, Assistant Keeper of the Wardrobe and Reader to Her Majesty.
Editor Mrs Vernon Delves Broughton (author’s granddaughter). 1887 2 vols {734}

Charlotte Papendiek wrote this autobiography for her children. It contains a detailed account of 18th century Hanoverian court life and intrigue, with anecdotes and gossip. Her father was Frederick Albert of Saxe-Teschen who was attached to the court of Queen Charlotte in London. Papendiek writes about her childhood, receiving smallpox inoculations, her education, and her marriage to Mr Papendiek, a court musician whom she married for financial security. Her friends and acquaintances included George III, Queen Charlotte, Dr Samuel Johnson, Mrs Hester Lynch Thrale Piozzi, Fanny Burney, Johan Christoph Bach (son of J S Bach), Sir Joshua Reynolds, Franz Joseph Haydn and Sarah Trimmer. Her narrative includes anecdotes of Mrs Siddons, the Duchess of Devonshire, and the astronomer, Herschel. The author also writes about contemporary political activities, including the Gordon Riots, 1780, the outbreak of the French Revolution and the ensuing public unrest in Britain, and the writings of Thomas Paine being a stimulus on the riots.

PHILLIPS, Catherine (née Payton), 1727-1794
Memoirs of the Life of Catherine Phillips: to Which Are Added Some of her Epistles.
London 1797 {750}

The memoirs of the life of Catherine Phillips describe her personal, spiritual and travel experiences over a period of 70 years. They include her Methodist childhood, boarding school education, closeness to her father, and the religious devotion and affection of her mother towards her children. Age 22 she entered the ministry, preaching in Wales, Ireland and Scotland. In 1753 she travelled to Friends’ communities throughout America. During her journeys she experiences health problems and travel dangers. Her writings include discussions on the evils of alcoholism, the moral dilemma of Friends who keep slaves, accepted standards of behaviour in the ministry between single men and single women, and gender equality in the community and ministry of Friends.


PILKINGTON, Laetitia (née Van Lewen), c.1706-1750
Memoirs of Mrs Laetitia Pilkington, wife to the Rev. Mr. Matthew Pilkington. Written by herself.
Dublin 1749 {754}

In her personal and literary memoirs Laetitia Pilkington uses comment, report and gossip to describe her ‘adventures and misadventures’. Born in Dublin, her childhood memories describe her admiration of her father John Van Lewen, obstetrician, who held progressive views towards women, and trained women as midwives. The author describes her troubled marriage to Matthew Pilkington, Anglican curate, her travelling to London in 1733 to be with him, his encouragement for her to form sexual liaisons with notables to advance his career, how she was disinherited by her family, and how her disappointed husband later threw her out of doors. In London her experiences include writing poetry for various clients, opening a pamphlet shop with the help of Samuel Richardson, and being imprisoned for debt. She also writes about her friendships with Jonathan Swift, and Colley Cibber, her views on contemporary women writers including Catherine Phillips (Reel 8), and her unfavourable impression of Sir Hans Sloane. She was the target of a satirical pamphlet A Parallel between Mrs Pilkington and Mrs Phillips, Written by an Oxford Scholar.

other works included:

Biography for Girls; or, Moral and Instructive Examples for the Female Sex.
London 1800 Third edition

Biography for Boys: or, Characteristic Histories: Calculated to Impress the Youthful Mind.

London 1799


PIOZZI, Hester Lynch Thrale (née Salusbury), 1741-1821.
Autobiography, Letters and Literary Remains of Mrs Piozzi (Thrale).
Editor A Hayward, Esq QC. London 1861 2 vols {757}

This memoir of Hester Piozzi was written late in life, and was her fourth attempt at self-documentation. Written in a characteristically fragmentary style it contains non-chronological, selective reminiscences, from childhood to age 60. Piozzi recalls her childhood to age 19 living with her family at the great estate of her mother’s wealthy brother, Thomas; 1762 her uncle deciding she should marry Henry Thrale, a wealthy brewer; her feelings of sacrifice to a man she didn’t love and her life of pregnancy and domesticity; 1764 meeting with Samuel Johnson who stimulated her intellectually; 1780 meeting Gabriel Piozzi, an Italian musician; 1781 death of Mr Thrale; criticism by ‘Mr Thrales’ daughters and society of the Italian Catholic suitor, Piozzi; the author and Piozzi forced to leave England because of debts; 1784 Piozzi and the author marry; 1789 author and husband are welcomed on their return to England. Hester Piozzi, literary hostess in the circle of Samuel Johnson and a member of the Bluestockings knew James Boswell, Fanny Burney, Elizabeth Montagu and Ann Finch. Her works include Anecdotes of the Late Samuel Johnson, LLD., During the Last Twenty Years of His Life, A Series of Letters on Courtship and Marriage.

ROBERTSON, Hannah, (1724-c.1800)
The Life of Mrs Robertson, Grand-Daughter of Charles II. Written by Herself.
Derby 1791 {794}

Hannah Robertson was born in Glasgow, Scotland. Her father was the illegitimate son of Charles II, and took the name Swan, her mother was Ann Huntington. Her life narrative which records her descent from affluence to poverty was written as a plea for friendship and financial support from the Marchioness of Strafford, 1720-90s. Her memoirs include her father’s personal history and his marriage to her mother; mourning the death of her fiancé Captain B Flanders; the reported death of her second fiancé Captain J; discovering on the eve of her wedding to Mr Robertson that Captain J is still alive, but going through with the wedding, and her unhappiness in marriage. Husband’s chronic illness, financial debt, and loss of their social status. Author’s managing a tavern in Aberdeen for the Freemasons; working in a boarding school in York; opening a shop for fancy-work in London with her daughter. Robertson’s narrative gives much information on 18th century institutions and attitudes towards women and the poor in society.

ROBINSON, Mary ‘Perdita’ (née Darby), 1758-1800
Memoirs of the Late Mrs Robinson, Written by Herself.
Editor, Mary Elizabeth Robinson, author’s daughter.
London 1801. 4 vols {795}

Mary Robinson was born in Bristol, Avon to middle class parents John Darby, an American whaling captain, and Mary Seys. Her memoirs, from childhood to c.1785, recount her life as an 18th century actress, poet and novelist, and describe her love affairs and intellectual friendships. Her memoirs include details of her father’s financial ruin resulting from his failed whaling fishery off the Labrador coast; her boarding school education under the sisters of Hannah More 1768; her marriage to articled clerk, Thomas Robinson, an unfaithful spendthrift 1774; being in a debtors’ prison with her family; 1775 published her first volume of poems 1775; the author’s stage career and support from David Garrick and Richard Brinsley; being the mistress of George IV, after he saw her in the role of ‘Perdita’ in The Winter’s Tale 1778-80; receiving financial help from other lovers and the Duchess of Devonshire; being paralyzed from the waist down following a miscarriage c.1783; to support herself writing novels and pamphlets. Robinson’s narrative is completed from 1785 to her death, by Mary Elizabeth Robinson, her daughter. Other works by Robinson include the anti-Catholic novel Hubert de Sevrac (1796) and The Widow, Thoughts on the Conditions of Women (1799).


SCHIMMELPENNICK, Mary Anne (née Galton), 1778-1856
The Life of Mary Anne SchimmelPennick.
Editor Christiana C Hankin. 1858 London 2 vols {826}

Mary Schimmelpennick known as being an essayist, religious/spiritual writer, pamphleteer, poet and abolitionist describes her upbringing to adulthood during the late 18th century, 1778-92; a period of political and spiritual upheaval. Her father, Samuel Galton, was cousin to the Darwins, and an amateur naturalist practising botany and astronomy. Her mother, Lucy Barclay, had spiritual ‘talkings’ with her daughter on Sundays, encouraging her daughter’s intellectual questioning. Schimmelpennick describes how she was given devotional literature and classics, including Voltaire, Molière and Swift; fairy tales were not allowed. Being taught by her parents the Quaker values of non-violence, compassion, dislike of ostentation and frivolity, and antagonism to slavery. During her mother’s illness she is attended by Dr Erasmus Darwin, and the author details his medical views, his agnosticism and excessive eating. The author’s suffering spinal problems, chronic pain, treatment and wearing a spinal brace. Discussing the French Revolution including the French royal family, the challenge to the political and class structure, and the effect of the revolution on the rest of Europe. Her mother’s decline, her own chronic illness and the Revolution cause her to begin to doubt God’s existence. Schimmelpennick’s narrative reveals contemporary views about government, education, slavery and animal rights.

SHERWOOD, Mary Martha (née Butt), 1775-1851
The Life of Mrs Sherwood , Chiefly Autobiographical, with Extracts from Mr Sherwood’s Journal.
Editor Sophia Kelly, author’s daughter. 1854 {843}

Mary Sherwood, prolific 19th century writer of over 350 novels, children’s books, and religious instruction details her full life from childhood, through marriage, and her life as a colonialist in India, c.1780-1854. The author describes a happy childhood with her family, father Dr George Butt, chaplain to George III, and mother Martha Sherwood. Aged 6 her mother copies down her invented stories, and aged 13 she is writing and staging plays for her parents. Reflecting on fashion and manners in the 1770s and 1850s, and anecdotes of court ladies when her father is court chaplain. She describes her interest in the writings of Hannah More ‘to instruct the poor in religion, morals and practicalities’. 1802 publishing her first work Susan Gray. Marrying Henry Sherwood, infantry captain, recalling her life ‘following the camp’, leaving her baby daughter in the care of her mother and travelling to India, 1805. In India recognising Indian custom and religion, but believing a need to bring them out of their ‘heathen superstitions’. Enthusiasm for British colonial rule. 1816 returning to England, death of mother, and author assuming role as head of family. Sherwood’s biography shows a remarkable strength of character, and today she is best remembered for her writings, in particular The Fairchild Family, 1847.


SIDDONS, Sarah (née Kemble), 1755-1831
Memoirs of Mrs Siddons interspersed with anecdotes of authors and actors.
By James Boden, Esq. London 1827 2 vols {846}

Sarah Siddons, actress, wrote her brief memoir in the last year of her life, aged 75. Siddons grew up in a family with theatrical associations: Roger Kemble, her father, was a theatrical manager, and her brother, John Philip Kemble, an actor. Written in a style of ‘good humour, education and taste’ the author relates her conversations with numerous celebrities. Siddons’s memoirs include her early acting career, 1773-1784; marrying, aged 19; receiving good reviews for her role in The Fair Penitent; taking the role of Portia in David Garrick’s Drury Lane acting company, 1775. Being celebrated for her performance as Isabella in Garrick’s adaptation of Southerne’s Fatal Marriage; sitting for the celebrated painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds, Mrs Siddons as the Tragic Muse; After 1803 acting with her brother at Covent Garden; her most famous success as Lady Macbeth, a role she last played in 1812.

TALBOT, Mary Anne (John Taylor, pseud), 1778-1808
The Life and Surprising Adventure of Mary Anne Taylor in the name of John Taylor, a natural daughter of the late Earl Talbot. Related by herself.
London 1809 [929]

Written in a literate style Talbot’s melodramatic narrative contains both real and fictional examples of her life and adventures as the male character, John Taylor, and as such belongs to the 18th century genre of sensational memoirs. Talbot describes her colourful life as a sailor on board English and French ships, travelling to the West Indies disguised as a foot boy, being forcibly conscripted by the crew of a French ship, the distress at having to fight against her own countrymen, and being wounded. Travelling to New York on a cargo ship as a cabin steward, Captain’s daughter falling in love with Talbot, and author being forced to reveal her sex. Talbot also experiences life as a prison inmate, stage actress, seamstress, domestic servant and jeweller’s assistant. As a cross-dressing narrative Talbot’s memoirs can usefully be compared with the autobiography, A Narrative of the Life of Mrs Charlotte Charke, Daughter of Colley Cibber (Reel 3). Whether fictional or true Talbot’s account raises the 18th century social issue about how women, without traditional male protection, survived in a patriarchal society.

TURNER, Joanna (née Cook), 1732-1785
Memoir of Mrs Joanna Turner, as exemplified in her Life, Death, and Spiritual Experience.
Preface by Rev D Bogue, DD. London 1820 {960}

Joanna Turner, Methodist cottage preacher, describes the early years of her life to young adulthood, 1730s-c.1750. She recalls experiencing an unhappy childhood ‘through my proud passionate disposition’; being disciplined by her mother’s brother; receiving religious teaching from her mother; sensing mother’s concern about her soul; mother’s death, author aged 8. Following mother’s death the author experiencing anxiety, praying seven times a day and reading spiritual material, but keeping a love of fine clothes. Aunts persuading father to send author, aged 12, to genteel boarding school; author no longer reads Bible and ceases to pray; reads and writes romances, novels and plays. Father remarries and author returns home; stepmother’s dislike and severe discipline of author; father’s death, author aged 17. Author living with devout Methodist family, and conversion experience.

WALKER, Elizabeth, 1623-1690
The Holy Life of Mrs Elizabeth Walker: giving a modest and short account of her exemplary piety and charity.
By Anthony Walker, DD.
London 1823 First published 1690. New edition, abridged and revised by Rev J W Brooks.

The autobiography of Elizabeth Walker describes her life from childhood to 1690. Her memoirs include details of her parentage and temptation; the manner is which she usually spent her time including her annual visit to Tunbridge Wells; the author’s character as a mother; the deaths of her daughters, Mary, Elizabeth, and Mrs Margaret Cox; the way the author kept her Wedding Day; her character as a Christian, and her thoughts on patience, pity to the poor, judgement, and tenderness of conscience.



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