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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

Detailed Listing - Part 2


BRAY, Anna Eliza (née Kempe), 1790-1883
Autobiography of Anna Eliza Bray.
Editor John A Kempe. London 1884 {146}

Romantic novelist, Anna Bray, was born in Newington, Surrey to parents John Kempe, landlord and bullion porter, and mother, Ann Arrow, a middle class family. Bray’s autobiography records her family childhood and friendships with Romantic-era writers and artists, 1790s-1843. Her narrative includes descriptions of a ‘very miscellaneous education at home’; her brief marriage to Charles Stodhard, artist and son of the historical painter, Thomas Stodhard; a journey to Normandy and the publication of her letters home to her mother; receiving good reviews and deciding on a writing career. Great sorrow at tragic death of husband; publishing a biography of Thomas Stodhard in memory of her husband. Modelling her writings on the works of Sir Walter Scott; receiving friendship and encouragement from Robert Southey; assessing the works of Daniel Defoe and Samuel Richardson; questioning the morality of works by Jean Jacques Rousseau and Madame de Staël. Confiding inspirations of her novels; helping Mary Collings to get her poetry published. Courtship and marriage to Edward Atkyns Bray, vicar. Bray’s autobiography ends with the death of Southey, which seems to have been a close for Bray of the Romantic literary era in which she flourished.

BRAY, Anna Eliza
Other work included:

Letters written during a Tour through Normandy, Britanny, and other parts of France, in 1818.
London 1820

BURLEND, Rebecca (née Burton), 1793-1872
A True Picture of Emigration; or fourteen years in the Interior of North America.
London [1848] {177}

In her autobiography Rebecca Burlend describes her life, ages 38-53, as an emigrant farmer, in mid-19th century America, with her husband, John Burlend, and their children. In 1831 the general economic depression and repressive Corn Laws meant farmers in England were hungry and poor. The narrative includes details of the voyage from Liverpool to New Orleans, and by flatboat on the Mississippi river to St Louis. Homesteading in Pike County, Illinois; the legal details of homesteading; the county’s climate, vegetation and wildlife; making their own furniture, candles and soap; hunting, fence building and cattle raising. Suffering difficulties, including harvesting with only her 9 year old son when husband was injured, and losing part of a crop to fire. Discussing education; contrasting English and American Methodist religion; achieving greater prosperity; advising potential emigrants that it is no shame to leave England for America. Burlend’s account, which was a best seller when published, was written down by her son Edward, a schoolmaster and poet.

CAMERON, Lucy Lyttleton (née Butt), 1781-1858
The Life of Mrs Cameron: partly an Autobiography, and from her Private Journals, etc.
Editor Charles Cameron, author’s eldest son. London 1861 {195}

Lucy Cameron was the daughter of Dr George Butt, county rector and chaplain to George III, and Martha Sherwood. Her sister was Mary Martha Butt Sherwood, author, missionary and social worker, and her brother an Anglican clergyman. Cameron, author of children’s literature and advice to mothers, based her writings on moral lessons learned during her upbringing and youth, and her works include Margaret White and The Two Lambs. Her narrative covers the period 1780s-1858. She writes about her childhood reading, including some books with questionable morals; advising parents to protect children by controlling what books they read; the excellent education of author’s brother at Westminster public school; her own education at Reading being harmful to her religious sense, ages 11-17. Riding circuit with her brother; meeting the Rev R C Cameron, her future husband on these journeys. Travelling to Bristol and Bath and visiting reformer Hannah More; ‘lamenting men’s freedom to determine women’s fate, but believing it wrong to challenge ‘divinely-ordained’ distinctions of class, age, gender and rank.’ Cameron’s work provides much information on children’s education, Anglican parish history, and women’s assent of their subordinate role in late 18th century society.


DAVIS, Elizabeth Cadwaladyr, 1789-1860
The Autobiography of Elizabeth Davis, a Balaclava Nurse, Daughter of Dafydd Cadwaladyr.
Editor Jane Williams. London 1857 2 vols {280}

The narrative of Elizabeth Davis describes her life as a Welsh domestic servant, nurse in the Crimean War, Sunday school teacher, and world traveller, from birth to 1857. Her improbable memoirs contain accounts of her travel adventures to countries including India, Australia, the West Indies, China, and South America. The author describes ‘voyaging to Rio de Janeiro; while there, seeing a friend murdered; discussing the murderer’s execution on a rack. Being kidnapped by an infatuated Barbosa; escaping on foot to Rio; arriving just in time to board the Foremans’ outward-bound ship’. Receiving numerous marriage proposals ‘escaping one suitor by his death at sea; escaping another by running away to London; escaping a third suitor by signing on as a nursemaid to family of Captain Smith’. Whether real or imaginary Davis’s adventures ‘paint a vivid, if romanticized, panorama of the British empire in the first half of the 19th century’.

FREEMAN, Anne, (née Mason), 1797-1826.
A Memoir of the Life and Ministry of Anne Freeman, a Faithful Servant of Jesus Christ, Written by Herself. And an Account of Her Death by Her Husband, Henry Freeman.
London 1826 {362}

The religious conversion of Anne Freeman is retold in her narrative from childhood to age 20. Born in Devonshire Freeman was the daughter of farmer, William Mason and Grace, her mother. Her memoirs describe how she was taught the Anglican catechism by her parents; being forbidden to read religious tracts as they may make her melancholy; attending Methodist revival meetings, age 14; illness with consumption, contemplation of death and taking confirmation in the Church of England; attending meetings of Arminian Bible Christians (Bryanites), age 20; commencing Methodist public preaching, age 20. Reading the journal of George Fox, founder of the Quakers, joining the Society of Friends, and public preaching with her husband in Ireland. Freeman’s memoir gives valuable information about Nonconformist denominations, and the importance of itinerant women preachers in egalitarian religions. The memoir also includes diary entries and letters.


GILBERT, Ann (née Taylor), 1782-1866
Autobiography and Other Memorials of Mrs Gilbert (formerly Ann Taylor)
Editor Josiah Gilbert. London 1847 2 vols {382}

In this pre-marriage memoir Ann Gilbert, describes her home education, religious identity, and collaborative ventures as writers and engravers with her sister Jane, 1780s-1813. Author’s grandfather, Isaac Taylor, being the 18th century engraver, art publisher and literary host. Author’s father continuing as engraver and publisher, as well as a Congregationalist minister; father teaching his daughters engraving and paying them room, board and wages, in belief that they should be self-supporting. Author’s family suffering from the English persecution of Nonconformists in 1794, sparked by fear of the role of the Huguenots in the French Revolution. Author’s strong defence of spinsterhood, arguing that unmarried daughters often forgo marriage for unselfish reasons; unmarried daughters being important in the welfare of aged parents; reproaching fathers for their belittlement of spinsterhood. In childhood the sisters enjoying writing verses and reading poetry including Isaac Watts’s pious verses, Swift’s satires and Wordsworth’s poetry. Author and Jane working together on Original Poems for Infant Minds, 1804. Writing introductions and reviews for Anna Laetitia Barbauld and Maria Edgeworth. Many of Gilbert’s verses and letters are bound together with her autobiography. This astute narrative allows an insight into late 18th century and early 19th century cultural history.

GRANT, Elizabeth, 1797-1885
Memoirs of a Highland Lady. The Autobiography of Elizabeth Grant of Rothiemurchus afterwards Mrs Smith of Baltiboys, 1797-1830.
Editor Lady Strachey. London 1898 {408}

Elizabeth Grant was the daughter of Sir John Peter Grant, landowner, lawyer and MP, and mother, Jane Ironside. Her narrative describes intimate personal and family memories and observations on contemporary ideas and opinions, society and travel. Volume 1: Family history and growing up in London in an upper class household; author and siblings being under the charge of a nursemaid and governess; parents neglect of children’s delicate health; severe discipline by father whereby siblings starved of food for up to 30 hours; author having been shy and misunderstood by parents who thought her wicked. Mentioning illegitimate children of grandfather, great-uncle and among family servants. Discussing the disruptive influence of young Percy Bysshe Shelley on Oxford University; father’s election as MP for Great Grimsby; the family returning to Scotland, 1812. Volume 2: Authors attending balls and being courted by beaux; a family ball being disrupted by a mob protesting against her father’s support of the Corn Law; The family travelling to Holland, Belgium and France, 1819; the family moving to India when father appointed to judgeship in Bombay, 1827. Author’s marriage to Colonel Henry Smith and their honeymoon voyage to Ceylon, Mauritius and England, 1830. Living in Dublin. Grant’s memoirs which contain anecdotes of friends and acquaintances was intended for family reading.


HAM, Elizabeth, 1783-c.1852
Elizabeth Ham by herself, 1783-1820.
Editor Eric Gillett. London. 1945. {432}

Elizabeth Ham’s memoir contains copious details of her personal life intermixed with important historical events, and other people’s reactions to them. Her need for sympathy is evident in all her relationships. Her memoir covers the first forty years of her life and describes visiting her parents, and her mother’s favouritism for Anne, author’s sister; mother’s harshness towards author. Father and uncle enlisting in yeomanry; recalling King George III’s visit to family farm and brewery; travelling with parents through Ireland in search of cheap grain for brewery. Author’s attending military balls and being courted by Mr Jackson, a military officer; his exposure as an unfaithful cad. Noting changes in women’s education, 1790s-1830s; writing The Infants’ Grammar, 1820. Ham’s narrative reveals contemporary attitudes towards love, marriage and patriotism. She also wrote Elgiva or the Monks, 1824 and The Ford Family in Ireland, 1845.

HOWITT, Mary (née Botham), 1799-1889
Mary Howitt an Autobiography.
Editor Margaret Howitt, author’s daughter. London 1889 2 vols {471}

Born in Staffordshire Mary Howitt was the daughter of Samuel Botham, land surveyor, and Ann Wood. Her memoir describes her Quaker upbringing, marriage and motherhood, as well as her literary interests, social reform and her spiritual journey towards Catholicism, 1805-1884. Volume 1 includes being taught the Quaker religion by her parents; parents entrusting their children's general education to God; mother’s withdrawing from her children, and author’s studying with a governess; father insisting upon author and author’s sister the teaching of poor children. Friendship and marriage with William Howitt, writer, social commentator and poet, 1821; working with husband on literary projects including Howitt’s Journal of Literary and Popular Press. Author’s interest in the ideas of Robert Owen, social reformer; support for the Reform Bill, 1832. Taking her children to Germany for a better education. Volume 2: discusses the editing of the Drawing-Room Scrap-Book journal. Learning Danish and translating works of Hans Christian Anderson, and her friendship with him. Her friendships with Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Christina Rossetti and Tennyson. Her interest in American anti-slavery issues. Changing her negative views on Catholicism and her conversion. Although an early active campaigner for women’s rights this is not discussed in her autobiography. Howitt’s childhood autobiography, My Own Story, Autobiography of a Child (1856) describes English rural life in a pre-industrial world.

Other work included:

My Own Story. Autobiography of a Child. London. 1849


JAMESON, Anna Brownell (née Murphy), 1794-1860
Visits and Sketches at Home and Abroad by Mrs Jameson including Diary of an Ennuyée. A new edition.
London 1834 4 volumes {499}

Anna Jameson was born in Dublin, Ireland and was the daughter of Dennis Brownell Murphy, Irish miniature painter, her English mother is not named. She married in 1825 to Robert Jameson, a London barrister and later chancellor, afterwards speaker of the House of Assembly in Upper Canada; they separated in 1837. She was an art and literary critic, author, cultural historian, pamphleteer, feminist and governess. Jameson knew Fanny Kemble, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Jane Welsh Carlyle, Barbara Bodichon and Lady Noel Byron. Her experiences touring Europe as a governess gave her the material for Diary of an Ennuyée (1834). Her other works include A Lady’s Diary (1825), Characteristics of Women (1832), Relative Position of Mothers and Governesses (1846), Sacred and Legendary Art (1848-1860) and Winter Studies and Summer Rambles in Canada (1838).


JAMESON, Anna Brownell
Other work included:

Social Life in Germany, illustrated in the Acted Dramas of her Royal Highness the Princess Amelia of Saxony by Mrs Jameson.
London 1840 2 vols

LUTTON, Anne, 1791-1881
Memorials of a Consecrated Life: compiled from the Autobiography, Letters and Diaries of Anne Lutton.
London 1882 {596}

Anne Lutton’s memoir written in a lively, formal style describes her personal and family memories and experiences, from childhood to young adulthood. Lutton’s narrative maintains a high moral tone throughout, and includes discussion on serious religious questions. The author was born in County Down, Ireland and her father was Ralph Lutton, classical scholar and linguist, and mother Anne Lutton. The memoirs include the author’s Anglican and Methodist education; learning to write from her older brother; her love of literature and reading novels in secret against her parents’ wishes; wanting to be a writer and experimenting with genres. Teaching herself Latin, Greek, and other ancient and modern languages; wanting to learn about metaphysics and moral and religious truth; discussing questions about God’s existence. Leading Methodist women’s meetings in Ireland. Lutton’s memoir written in 1834 reflects her considerable learning and includes letters and diary extracts up to 1863, and a biographical commentary until 1881. Wrote Poems on Moral and Religious Subjects, 1829.


MITFORD, Mary Russell, 1787-1855
The Life of Mary Russell Mitford.
Editor Rev A G L’Estrange. London 1870 3 vols {666}

Memoir of an upper middle class novelist, poet and playwright. Mary Russell Mitford was the daughter of George Mitford, physician and Mary Russell, heiress. The author describes personal and family memories, and friendships with literary figures, from childhood to 1851. She records her parents’ courtship; father’s tendency to alienate prospective patients through zealous Whig politics; father’s financial losses through gambling and bad investments; his alienation of rich wife’s cousin. Buying a lottery ticket with father on author’s 10th birthday, and winning £20,000. Education at London private school, ages 10-15; being shut in school library to force her to learn piano and harp, reading Molière instead. Father’s using lottery winnings for extensive gambling and wickedness resulting in poverty of author’s family, c.1817. Author’s friendship with poet John Kenyon and his wife who encourage her writing talent; friendship with Elizabeth Barrett Browning; visiting Great Exhibition in London, 1851. The memoir provides contemporary views towards women writing professionally, as well as glimpses of women writers now forgotten. Mitford’s works include: Miscellaneous Poems (1810), country life sketches in Our Village (1819), the novel Belford Regis (1835) and the play Foscari: A Tragedy (1826).

MURRAY, the Hon. Amelia Mathilda, 1799-1884
Recollections from 1803-1837, with a conclusion in 1868.
London 1868 {685}

The memoir of the Hon. Amelia Murray was written when the author was age 60, and contains youthful memories of friendships with King George III, members of the royal family and aristocracy. Written in conversational style it contains gossip and anecdotes from author’s birth to 1860. Murray was the daughter of Lord George Murray, Bishop of St David’s, director of telegraph at the Admiralty, and Annie Grant, lady-in-waiting to two of George III’s daughters. Her memoirs include her ancestry and family history; father’s death 1803; her social debut; meeting George III and the royal family, 1805, when mother was appointed lady-in-waiting; discussing the flogging of the king’s two eldest sons; the king’s supposed madness. Receiving a gown from the queen; author’s friendship with Princess Charlotte and her belief that the princess died from starvation. Further details, not contained in the memoir include the author’s being an original member of the Children’s Friend Society, 1830; being a maid of honour to Queen Victoria, 1837; being an intimate friend of Lady Byron; and being an active anti-slavery advocate.


MURRAY, The Hon. Amelia Mathilda
Other work included:

Letters from the United States, Cuba and Canada. 1856 2 vols

PARKS, Fanny, (née Frances Susannah Archer), 1794-1875
Wanderings of a Pilgrim in Search of the Picturesque.
London 1850. 2 vols Volume 1 {735}

Fanny Parks was born in Conwy, Wales and was the daughter of William Archer, 16th Lancers, and Anne. She married Charles Crawford Parks, writer for the East India Company. Her detailed memoirs written in a lively style reveal her independence of mind. Parks allows a colonial perspective of India, its peoples and customs, recording changes in Britain’s governing of India, the economic impact of such policies, and domestic problems in Indian society, 1822-45. She describes attending colonial activities in Calcutta; learning Hindustani; farming at Allahbad. Describing Muslim customs; a history of Hindu theology; Methodism as found in higher native social classes. Europeans’ lack of respect for Indian culture. Famine in Kanauj; travelling over mountains from Landowr to Simla; Discussing laws governing married women in England as unfair. Describing Delhi; natural beauty of Indian scenery. Benares: snake charmers, temples, sugar mills. Describing Afghani peoples and customs. Parks’s narrative reflects her admiration and respect for the richness of Indian culture. The memoir includes a glossary of terms and a collection of translated Indian proverbs.


PARKS, Fanny
Wanderings of a Pilgrim in Search of the Picturesque.
London 1850. 2 vols Volume 2

POTTER, Louisa, c.1800-?
Lancashire Memories.
London 1879 {765}

Louisa Potter was raised in Riverton, Lancashire, and details of her parents are not known. Her memoir describes her education in Lancashire and extended family, and further education in London at a genteel ladies’ school, c.1810-25. The narrative is organised by topic rather than chronologically, and contains satirical names to disguise the identity of characters discussed, for example ‘Mrs Ruleit’ is the headmistress. Memories of youthful relationships and a rural environment are written with nostalgia. Contemporary early 19th century social realties are written with a realism, and include discussions about the inequality between boys’ and girls’ education, cottage industry, labour unrest, and class divisions.

SIBBALD, Susan (née Mein), 1783-1866
The Memoirs of Susan Sibbald (1783-1812).
Editor Francis Paget Hett, author’s great-grandson. London 1926 {845}

Susan Sibbald’s memoir recalls her life from childhood to early married life as a woman born and married into military families, from birth to 1812. Born in Fowey, Cornwall Sibbald was the daughter of Dr Thomas Mein, Royal Navy and Margaret Ellis. In 1807 she married Lt. Col. William Sibbald. Moving in upper class military circles the author’s narrative provides a woman’s perspective on contemporary political and military events during the French and Napoleonic Wars, as well as personal anecdotes about people and social customs. She also describes how military events governed the movements of her personal life. Sibbald’s narrative includes memories of her mother and sisters and life in a Cornish town on the Channel coast. Outbreak of war with France, author aged 10; father’s being appointed inspector of naval ships at Devonport; meeting Admiral Sidney Smith, who later defeated Napoleon’s navy in Egypt. Attending Sophia Lee’s boarding school in Bath, noting contemporary modes of medical treatment, dress and travel. Leaving school to join family in London, and entering society, aged 17. Living in Yorkshire with husband’s regiment, and regimental social activities. Moving to Jersey when Napoleon threatened invasion of the Channel Islands. The memoir ends with author aged 29, and extracts from her letters which are appended to the memoir include details about the Crimean War, the Fenian Raids in Canada, and the American Civil War.


SOMERVILLE, Mary (née Fairfax), 1780-1872
Personal Recollections, from Early Life to Old Age, of Mary Somerville.
Editor Martha Somerville, author’s daughter. London 1873 {877}

Mary Somerville, astronomer, scientist and geographer, charts her life from childhood to old age, spanning over ninety years, through the Georgian and Victorian eras. She describes the contemporary prejudice she faced as a woman with a scientific mind, an intellectual who was viewed as a social oddity, and her struggle to overcome such attitudes. Her memoir describes how her Calvinist mother taught her to read using the Bible, receiving a set of Euclid and an algebra text from her brother’s tutor; father believing that girls who pored over studies were liable to madness. Marrying her cousin, William Somerville, who encouraged her studies; writing an article in the Quarterly Review; anticipating return of Halley’s Comet, 1835. Extracts of letters from Sir John Herschel and Professor Peacock; having the honour of a bust of herself placed in the Royal Society; George IV granting her a pension. Publishing Mechanism of the Heavens; writing On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences, 1834. Befriending Italian astronomer Padre Vico; friendship with Michael Faraday. Publishing Physical Geography, 1848. Long friendship with Frances Power Cobbe. Her lifelong desire for female equality; joining a petition to the Senate of London University, urging that women be granted degrees. After her death, in recognition of her achievements a new women’s college at Oxford University was named Somerville Hall, in her honour.

TONNA, Charlotte Elizabeth (née Brown), 1790-1846
Personal Recollections by Charlotte Elizabeth
London 1841 {948}

Charlotte Tonna, an evangelical Protestant, relates her life from birth to 1836, the year she started the Christian Lady’s Magazine. Tonna was the daughter of Michael Browne, Anglican rector, her mother is not named. The author was a religious/spiritual writer, novelist, children's author, anti-Catholic religionist, and social reformer. Her memoirs include being educated in her father’s study; his Tory friends discussing political issues there. Teaching herself to write, aged 7; being excited by romantic literature and the sensuality of music, until dosing with mercury made her permanently deaf, aged 10. Father’s condemning the Repeal of the Test Act, which had excluded Catholics from holding parliamentary office. Author’s moving to Ireland with husband; personal experience reversing her prejudice against the ’discontented and malignant’ Irish; husband abandoning her in Kilkenny, 1821. Writing religious tracts to save her soul from sin; becoming friends with Hannah More, founder of the Religious Tract Society; choosing to write under pseudonym ‘Charlotte Elizabeth’ to stop her estranged husband from claiming her earnings. Reaction to the Catholic Emancipation Act, 1829; circulating petitions, writings, and lobbying men to take anti-Catholic action. In 1836 Tonna began writing social problem novels including, Helen Fleetwood (1841), and the non-fiction book Perils of the Nation (1843) which was to later influence parliamentary social reforms.

WAKE, Charlotte Murdoch, Lady (née Tait), 1800-1888
The Reminiscences of Charlotte, Lady Wake.
Editor Lucy Wake. Edinburgh and London 1909 {985}

The memoir of Charlotte Murdoch Wake takes the form of a family biography describing family members’ interconnections with political and religious events in the nineteenth century, 1800-87. In particular, she records the rise of her brother, Archie, to Archbishop of Canterbury, a powerful and influential figure. Wake was the daughter of Craufurd Tait of Harviestoun, Scottish landowner, and Susan Campbell. Wake describes her father’s inheriting the family estate, 1800; witnessing George III’s 50-year Jubilee celebrations, 1810; her mother’s sudden death, 1814; author accompanying sister on Highland honeymoon, and residing with them in London, 1818. Author’s marriage to Charles Wake, later Sir Charles Wake. Archie’s rise at Oxford: his classics degree, fellowship, tutorship and Anglican ordination, 1836; Archie succeeding Thomas Arnold as headmaster of Rugby, 1842. Deaths of five of author’s daughters in scarlet fever epidemic, 1855. Heroism of author’s son in India during 1857 Mutiny; deaths of husband and one son, 1863-64. Archie becomes Archbishop of Canterbury, 1868; author’s assuming official domestic duties for him at Lambeth Palace; author being personally consoled by Queen Victoria following death of Archie. In this memoir Wake records death through illness and disease in a matter-of-fact manner, in a period before modern medicine. Wake’s entire family died during her lifetime, including her 7 daughters and 6 sons.



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