Blogging from A-Z April 2018 Challenge

Z is for Zitkála-Sá


Zitkála-Šá was born on February 22, 1876 on the Yankton Indian Reservation in South Dakota. She was raised by her mother, Ellen Simmons, whose Dakota name was Thaté Iyóhiwiŋ (Every Wind or Reaches for the Wind). Her father was a German-American man named Felker, who abandoned the family while Zitkala-Ša was very young.

For her first eight years, Zitkála-Šá lived on the reservation. She later described those days as ones of freedom and happiness, safe in the care of her mother’s people and tribe. In 1884, missionaries came to the Yankton Reservation. They recruited several of the Yankton children, including Zitkala-Šá, taking them for education to the White’s Indiana Manual Labor Institute, a Quaker school in Wabash, Indiana.This training school was founded by Josiah White for the education of “poor children, white, colored, and Indian,” with the goal of helping them advance in society.

Zitkála-Šá attended the school for three years. She later wrote about both the deep misery of having her heritage stripped away, when she was forced to pray as a Quaker and cut her traditionally long hair. By contrast, she took joy in learning to read and write, and to play the violin.

In 1887 Zitkála-Šá returned to the Yankton Reservation to live with her mother. However, in 1891, Zitkála-Šá decided to return to the White’s Indiana Manual Labor Institute for further education. She studied piano and violin, and started to teach music at White’s when the teacher resigned. In June 1895, she was awarded her first diploma and gave a speech on women’s inequality.

Though her mother wanted her to return home after graduation, Zitkála-Šá chose to attend Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, where she received a scholarship. Though initially feeling isolated and uncertain among her predominantly white peers, she soon proved her oratorical talents again with a speech entitled “Side by Side” in 1896. During this time, she began gathering Native American legends, translating them first to Latin and then to English for children to read. In 1897, however, six weeks before graduation, she was forced to leave Earlham College due to ill-health and financial difficulties.

From 1897 to 1899, Zitkála-Šá studied and played violin at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. In 1899 she took a position at Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania, where she taught music to the children. She resented the founder’s program of assimilation into dominant white culture and the limitations of the curriculum, which prepared Native American children only for low-level work, assuming they would return to rural cultures. She also conducted debates on the treatment of Native Americans and began writing articles on Native American life, including one which describes the profound loss of identity felt by a Native American boy after undergoing the assimilationist education at the school. Soon after this article was published, Zitkála-Šáwas dismissed. She took a job as a clerk at the Bureau of Indian Affairs office at Standing Rock Indian Reservation, and began collecting stories from Native Americans on the reservation to publish in Old Indian Legends, commissioned by the Boston publisher Ginn and Company.

In 1902 she met and married Captain Raymond Talefase Bonnin. Of mixed race, he was culturally Yankton and had one-quarter Yankton Dakota ancestry. Soon after their marriage, Captain Bonnin was assigned to the Uintah-Ouray reservation in Utah. The couple lived and worked there with the Ute people for the next fourteen years. During this period, Zitkála-Šá gave birth to the couple’s only son, Raymond Ohiya Bonnin.

Zitkála-Šá had a fruitful writing career. American Indian Stories is a collection of childhood stories, allegorical fiction, and an essay, including several of Zitkála-Šá’s articles that were originally published in Harper’s Monthly and Atlantic Monthly. First published in 1921, these stories told of the hardships which she and other Native Americans encountered at the missionary and manual labor schools designed to “civilize” them and assimilate them to majority culture. The autobiographical writings described her early life on the Yankton Reservation, her years as a student at White’s Manual Labor Institute and Earlham College, and her period teaching at Carlisle Indian Industrial School. Her autobiography contrasted the charm of her early life on the reservation with the “iron routine” which she found in the assimilation boarding schools.

Old Indian Legends (1901) was a collection of stories which she had gathered from various tribes. Directed primarily at children, the collection was an attempt both to preserve Native American traditions and stories in print and to garner respect and recognition for those traditions from the dominant European-American culture.

In 1910 Zitkála-Šá began collaborating with American composer William F. Hanson, who taught at Brigham Young University. She wrote the libretto and songs, based on sacred Sioux ritual, which the federal government prohibited the Ute from performing on the reservation. She also played Sioux melodies on the violin, and Hanson used this as the basis of his music composition.

In February 1913, the premiere performance of The Sun Dance Opera was presented at Orpheus Hall in Vernal, Utah. The production featured members of the Ute Nation, who lived on the nearby Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation. It was significant for adapting the Native American oral musical tradition to a written one. Its debut was met with critical acclaim. Few works of Native American opera since have dealt so exclusively with Native American themes.

In 1938 the New York Light Opera Guild premiered The Sun Dance Opera at The Broadway Theatre as its opera of the year. Its publicity credited only William F. Hanson as composer.

Zitkála-Šá was an active member of the Society of American Indians, which published the American Indian Magazine. From 1918 to 1919 she served as editor for the magazine, as well as contributing numerous articles. These were her most explicitly political writings, covering topics such as the contribution of Native American soldiers to World War I, issues of land allotment, and corruption within the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the agency within the Department of Interior that oversaw American Indians. Many of her political writings have since been criticized for favoring assimilation. She called for recognition of Native American culture and traditions, while also advocating US citizenship rights to bring Native Americans into mainstream America. She believed this was how they could gain political power and protect their cultures.

Zitkála-Šá died on January 26, 1938 in Washington, DC at the age of sixty-one. She is buried under the name of Gertrude Simmons Bonnin in Arlington National Cemetery. Since the late 20th century, the University of Nebraska has reissued many of her writings on Native American culture.

She has been recognized by the naming of a Venusian crater “Bonnin” in her honor. In 1997 she was designated a Women’s History Month Honoree by the National Women’s History Project.

Zitkala-Sa’s legacy lives on as one of the most influential Native American activist of the twentieth century. She left with her an influential theory of Indian resistance and a crucial model for reform. Through her activism, Zitkála-Šá was able to make crucial changes to education, health care, legal standing of Native American people and the preservation of Indian culture.


Zitkála-Šá. 1876-1938. Old Indian Legends. Retold by ZItkala-Sa. Illustrations by Angel De Cors (Hinook-Mahwi-Kilinaka). Ginn and Company, 1901.

Zitkála-Šá., 1876-1938. American Indian Stories.Foreward by Dexter Fisher. University of Nebraska Press, 1985.

Zitkála-Šá, 1876-1938. Dance in a buffalo skull. Iillustrated by S. D. Nelson.South Dakota State Historical Society Press, [2007]

Zitkála-Šá (Gertrude Bonnin). “Why I Am a Pagan.” The Online Archive of Nineteenth-Century U.S. Women’s Writings, Ed. Glynis Carr. Winter 1999.

Zitkála-Šá, Fabens, Charles H. and Matthew K. Sniffen. Oklahoma’s Poor Rich Indians: An Orgy of Graft and Exploitation of the Five Civilized Tribes, Legalized Robbery. Philadelphia: Office of the Indian Rights Association, 1924.

Zitkála-Šá. Dreams and Thunder: Stories, Poems, and The Sun Dance Opera. Edited by P. Jane Hafen. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8032-4918-7.

Zitkála-Šá: Letters, Speeches, and Unpublished Writings, 1898-1929. Edited by Tadeusz Lewandowski. Leiden, Boston: Brill Press, 2018.

Hanson, William F., and Zitkála-Šá.. The Sun Dance Opera (romantic American Indian opera, 1913, 1938).

For a more comprehensive listing of all her writings see the American Native Press Archives maintained by the Sequoyah Research Center at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock.

Blogging from A-Z April 2018 Challenge

Y is for Ann Yearsley

Born in Bristol to John and Anne Cromartie (described as a milkwoman), Ann married John Yearsley, a yeoman, in 1774. Robert Southey wrote a biography of Ann Yearsley in the year 1831. He called his biography an “introductory essay on the lives and works of our uneducated poets.” Southey describes the first encounter between Hannah More, who became Ann Yearsley’s patron, with the poet. Hannah stated that Ann’s writing “excited [her] attention” because it “breathed the genuine spirit of poetry, and [was] rendered still more interesting by a certain natural and strong expression of misery that seemed to fill the head and mind of the author.”

Hannah More found Ann Yearsley living in poverty with six young children born in the space of seven years, while caring for her aged mother. Hannah was impressed by Ann’s ability to interpret the leading literature of the age with such accuracy “without having ever conversed with any body above her own level.” Hannah describes Ann as not having seen a dictionary or knowing anything of grammatical rules, bound to “ignorant and vulgar” syntax, yet using language full of metaphor, imagery, and personification. Hannah describes herself as striving to save Ann from the vanity of fame and being more concerned about providing food for Ann than providing fame.

More organized subscriptions for Ann Yearsley to publish Poems, on Several Occasions (1785). The success of the volume led to a quarrel between Hannah and Ann over access to the trust in which profits from the undertaking were held. Ann included her account of this quarrel in an Autobiographical Narrative appended to a fourth edition of the poems, which appeared in 1786.

Now supported by Frederick Hervey, 4th Earl of Bristol, Ann Yearsley published Poems, on Various Subjects in 1787. A Poem on the Inhumanity of the Slave-Trade appeared in 1788. Her poem was considered by many critics to rival a similar poem written by Hannah More entitled Slavery: A Poem. Ann Yearsley was one of many prominent Bristol women who campaigned against the Bristol slave trade.

Ann Yearsley turned to drama with Earl Goodwin: an Historical Play (performed in 1789 ; printed in 1791) and to novel-writing with The Royal Captives: a Fragment of Secret History, Copied from an Old Manuscript (1795). Her final collection of poetry, The Rural Lyre, appeared in 1796. 

Ann Yearsley, 1753-1806. The Collected Works of Ann Yearsley. Edited by Kerri Andrews. Pickering and Chatto, 2014.

Blogging from A-Z April 2018 Challenge

X is for Yu Xuanji


Yu Xuanji (pinyin: Yú Xuánjī, approximate dates 844–868/869), courtesy names Youwei (pinyin: Yòuwēi) and Huilan (pinyin: Huìlán), was a Chinese poet and courtesan of the late Tang dynasty, from Chang’an. She was one of the most famous women poets of Tang, along with Xue Tao, her fellow courtesan.

Her family name, Yu, is relatively rare. Her given name, Xuanji, translates roughly to “profound theory” or “mysterious principle,” and is a technical term in Daoism and Buddhism. “Yòuwēi” translates roughly to “young and tiny” and, “Huìlán” refers to a species of fragrant orchid. She is distinctive for the quality of her poems, including many written in what seems to be a remarkably frank and direct autobiographical style, using her own voice rather than speaking through a character.

Little trustworthy information is known about the relatively short life of Yu Xuanji. She grew up in Tang capital Chang’an, which was the terminus of the Silk Road and one of the most sophisticated cities of its time. Yu was married as a concubine, or lesser wife, to an official named Li Yi (pinyin: Lǐ Yì) at 16. After separating three years later, she became a courtesan and a Daoist nun. She was a fellow of Wen Tingyun, to whom she addressed a number of poems. She died early, at the age of 26 to 28. Apart from names and dates in her poems, the Little Tablet from the Three Rivers gives the only purported facts about her life, although these are salacious in detail: that she had an affair with Wen Tingyun, lived a scandalously promiscuous life, and was executed for allegedly beating her maid to death. This account is considered semi-fictional, and may be a reflection of the traditional distrust of women who were strong-willed and sexually independent.

In her lifetime, Yu Xuanji’s poems were published as a collection called Fragments of a Northern Dreamland, which has been lost. Forty-nine surviving poems were collected in the Song Dynasty mainly for their sensationalist value in an anthology that also included poems from ghosts and foreigners.

Yu Xuanji. The Clouds Float North: The Complete Poems of Yu Xuanji. Translated by David Young and Jiann Wesleyan Press, 1998.

Blogging from A-Z April 2018 Challenge

W is for Lady Mary Wroth

Lady Mary Wroth (18 October 1587 – approximately 1640) was the eldest daughter of Barbara Gamage, a Welsh heiress, and Robert Sidney, Earl of Leicester, the younger brother of Sir Philip Sidney and Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke. Lady Mary spent much of her childhood at the ancestral home of the Sidneys, Penshurst Place, one of the great country houses in the Elizabethan period. It was a center of literary activity and its gracious hospitality is praised in Ben Jonson’s famous poem To Penshurst. Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger included Lady Mary in a group portrait of Lady Sidney and her children in 1596, which is now on display at Penshurst.

During a time when few women were educated, Lady Mary had the privilege of a formal education, which was obtained from household tutors under the guidance of her mother. With her family connections, a career at court was all but inevitable. In 1604, Lady Mary married Sir Robert Wroth and became part of Queen Anne’s intimate circle of friends, actively participating in masques and entertainments. Her poetry was circulated in manuscript and garnered much praise. Ben Jonson dedicated The Alchemist to her and praised her as “a Sydney” who incorporated the virtues of all the goddesses.

Sir Robert Wroth appears to have been a gambler, philanderer, and drunkard. Ben Jonson adds more evidence of an unhappy union, by noting that ‘my Lady Wroth is unworthily married on a Jealous husband.’ Various letters from Lady Mary to Queen Anne also refer to the financial losses her husband had sustained during their time together. Sir Robert died in 1614, leaving Lady Mary with an infant son and a debt of £23,000. She endeavored to pay off the debt herself, and suffered financial difficulties for the rest of her life.  Never remarrying, Lady Mary bore two illegitimate children by her cousin, WIlliam Herbert, third Earl of Pembroke.

Lady Mary is best known for The Countess of Montgomery’s Urania (1621), an intricate prose romance patterned on Philip Sidney’s Arcadia. Lady Mary also appended 19 songs and 83 sonnets to the text, entitled Pamphilia to Amphilantus (the latter name translates to Lover-of-two) portraying Pamphilia constant in her love for the faithless Amphilanthus. Lady Mary’s poems are in the Elizabethan style of her father’s Rosis and Lysa, and her uncle’s Astrophil and Stella. The work caused a scandal, since it was rumored to satirize court intrigues. Lady Mary apologized and withdrew the book from sale. A second half of The Countess of Montgomery’s Urania remained in manuscript until it was published for the first time in 1999.

After the publication issues surrounding The Countess of Montgomery’s Urania, Wroth left King James’s court and was later abandoned by William Herbert. There is little known about Lady Mary’s later years but it is known that she continued to face major financial difficulties. Lady Mary is commemorated in Loughton by the naming of a footpath adjacent to Loughton Hall as Lady Mary’s Path.

Wroth, Mary, Lady, approximately 1586-approximately 1640. The first part of The Countess of Montgomery’s Urania. Edited by Josephine A. Roberts. Center for Medieval and Early Renaissance Studies, State University of New York at Binghamton,1995.

Wroth, Mary, Lady, approximately 1586-approximately 1640. The second part of the Countess of Montgomery’s Urania. Edited by Josephine A. Roberts ; completed by Suzanne Gossett and Janel Mueller. Renaissance English Text Society in conjunction with Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies,1999.

Wroth, Mary, Lady, approximately 1586-approximately 1640. The poems of Lady Mary Wroth. Edited, with introduction and notes, by Josephine A. Roberts. Louisiana State University Press, 1983.

Wroth, Mary, circa 1586-circa 1640. Pamphilia to Amphilanthus in manuscript and print. Edited by Ilona Bell ; texts by Steven W. May and Ilona Bell. Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2017.

Blogging from A-Z April 2018 Challenge

U is for Leonora, Countess Ulfeldt

Leonora Christina, Countess Ulfeldt, born “Countess Leonora Christina Christiansdatter” (8 July 1621 – 16 March 1698), was the daughter of King Christian IV of Denmark and Kirstine Munk. Leonora Christina’s autobiography, Jammersminde (Memory of Woe, published 1869) shows a psychological and social realism unusual in the writings of 17th century noblewomen. Now regarded as a classic of Danish literature, it explores her prison years in detailed and vivid prose, recounting her crises, confrontations, humiliations, self-discipline, growing religious faith and serenity, together with descriptions of hardships she endured or overcame. The work still commands popular interest, scholarly respect, and has virtually become the stuff of legend as retold and enlivened in Danish literature and art.

Leonora Christina’s marriage to Corfits Ulfeldt, prime minister of Denmark until the death of Christian IV in 1648, led to the accusation of her being involved in her husband’s treason. First exiled, then confined to the Blue Tower from 1663 to 1685, Leonora Christina lived only 12 years after her release.

Countess Ulfeldt also wrote an account of her happy youth, Den Franscke Selvbiografi (The French Autobiography), completed in 1673 and smuggled out of the Blue Tower. It was intended to be included in Otto Sperling the Younger’s De Foeminis Doctis (On Learned Women) which was never published. In a compilation of biographical sketches of female regents, Heltinders Pryd (The Ornaments of Heroines, 1684), Leonora describes the combative, faithful and virtuous, and steadfast heroines whose struggles left role models for the future. Due to this work, some later literary and political critics see Leonora as a proto-feminist. Kristian Zahrtmann (1843-1917) has memorialized her story in a series of 18 monumental paintings, the first of which was shown in 1871. These paintings were later included as illustrations in an 1890 edition of Jammersminde, and released as individual prints in 1907.

Only recently have scholars focused on less positive aspects of the Countess’s personality: arrogance, stubbornness, blind devotion to an unworthy husband, and a disingenuous cleverness revealing itself as a tendency toward self-absorption and self-absolution that somehow never casts her in a negative light. For all these flaws, real or imagined, the saga of the prisoner of the Blue Tower — the fall of a mighty woman and her rise from despair to an even greater intellectual and spiritual might, as told against the backdrop of Europe during the Reformation — remains deeply compelling.

Through her son Count Leo Ulfeldt (1651-1716), an Austrian soldier, her descendants not only include some of the most influential German and Slavic noble families of Europe, but also: King Simeon II of the Bulgarians (born 1937), King Michael of Romania (born 1921), Prince Hans Adam II of Liechtenstein (born 1945), Emperor Karl I of Austria-Hungary (1887-1922), King Peter II of Yugoslavia (1923-1970), King Manuel II of Portugal (1889-1932), King Frederick Augustus III of Saxony (1865-1932), Marie Christine, Princess Michael of Kent, (born 1945), Christoph, Cardinal von Schönborn (born 1945), Maximilian, Duke of Hohenberg (1902-1962), Johannes, Prince of Thurn and Taxis (1926-1990), and the Earls of Clanwilliam.

Also notable among her descendants is Isabelle, comtesse de Paris (1911-2003), whose life, aside from imprisonment, resembled Leonora Christina’s in several respects: Daughter of a morganatic union, she lived in exile with and remained staunchly faithful to a faithless husband, signed away valuable property for his sake, wrote biographies of historically significant women, and penned a memoir (Tout m’est Bonheur, 1978) that celebrated life’s blessings in the face of life’s travails.


Ulfeldt, Leonora Christina, 1621–1698. Memoirs of Leonora Christina, daughter of Christian IV of Denmark written during her imprisonment in the Blue Tower at Copenhagen, 1663-1685. Translated by F. E. Burnett. Dutton, 1929.

Blogging from A-Z April 2018 Challenge

T is for Lucrezia Tornabuoni

Lucrezia Tornabuoni (22 June 1427 – 25 March 1482) was a writer and influential political adviser. Connected by birth to two of the most powerful families in 15th-century Italy she later married Piero di Cosimo de’ Medici, connecting herself to another of the most powerful families in Italy and extending her own power and influence. She had significant political influence during the rule of her husband and that of her son, Lorenzo. She worked to support the needs of the poor and religion in the region, supporting several institutions. She was a patron of the arts, and also wrote poems and plays herself.

Lucrezia and Piero had eight children, including Lorenzo de’ Medici (1449–1492). Piero presented Lucrezia with a desco da parto showing the Triumph of Fame by Giovanni di ser Giovanni Guidi, to celebrate the birth of their first son and heir. Piero and Lucrezia hired tutors, Gentile de’ Becchi and Cristoforo Landino among them, to educate their children in such subjects as philosophy, business, and politics, and to ensure that they acquired good taste in literary culture and the fine arts.

Lucrezia wrote religious stories, plays, and poetry. She read her poems to famous poets, comparing them with their compositions. Some of her poems were set to popular tunes and performed publicly, and published four years after she died.. She wrote stories about Esther, Susanna, Tobias, John the Baptist and Judith, in part to inspire and educate her grandchildren.

A significant patron of the arts, Lucrezia commissioned the Morgante by Luigi Pulci, who called her “a famous lady in our century.” She also supported the poet Angelo Poliziano, who was also a tutor for her grandchildren by Lorenzo. He would read Lucrezia’s poems to them. Lucrezia was a patron of Bernardo Bellincioni, with whom she would exchange humorous poems that they had written.

Lucrezia also supported several religious institutions. She was responsible for the addition of the Chapel of the Visitation in the church of San Lorenzo in Florence. When Lucrezia recovered from an illness in 1467, she believed it was due to the intercession of Saint Romuald, and supported the hermitage at Camaldoli which he had founded.

Around 1475, Lucrezia’s brother Giovanni Tornabuoni commissioned a portrait of her by Domenico Ghirlandaio, which is now in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. She may also be represented in three scenes in Ghirlandaio’s frescos in the Tornabuoni Chapel: The Visitation, The Birth of the Baptist, and The Nativity of Mary.

Tornabuoni, Lucrezia, 1425-1482. Sacred narratives. Edited and translated by Jane Tylus. University of Chicago Press, 2001.

Blogging from A-Z April 2018 Challenge

O is for Amelia Opie

Amelia Opie (1769-1853) wrote The Dangers of Coquetry when she was only 18 years old. Her novel Father and Daughter (1801) is about misled virtue and family reconciliation. Encouraged by her husband to continue writing, she published Adeline Mowbray (1804), an exploration of women’s education, marriage, and the abolition of slavery. This novel in particular is noted for engaging Opie’s former friend Mary Wollstonecraft, whose relationship with the American Gilbert Imlay outside of marriage caused some scandal, as did her later marriage to the philosopher William Godwin. Godwin had previously argued against marriage as an institution by which women were owned as property, but when Wollstonecraft became pregnant, they married despite his prior beliefs. In the novel, Adeline becomes involved with a philosopher early on, who takes a firm stand against marriage, only to be convinced to marry a West Indian landowner against her better judgment. The novel also addresses abolitionist sentiment, in the story of a mixed-race woman and her family whom Adeline saves from poverty at some expense to herself.
In 1825, Opie joined the Society of Friends, despite the objections of her recently deceased father, due to the influence of Joseph John Gurney and his sisters, who were longtime friends and neighbours in Norwich. The rest of her life was spent mostly in travel and working with charities. In the meantime, however, she published an anti-slavery poem, The Black Man’s Lament in 1826 and a volume of devotional poems, Lays for the Dead in 1834. Opie worked with Anna Gurney to create a Ladies Anti-Slavery Society in Norwich. This anti-slavery society organised a petition of 187,000 names that was presented to Parliament. The first two names on the petition were Amelia Opie and Priscilla Buxton.
Opie went to the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840 where she was one of the few women included in the commemorative painting. A somewhat sanitised biography of Amelia Opie, entitled A Life, by Miss C.L. Brightwell, was published in 1854. Other works by Opie include Simple Tales (1806), Temper (1812), Tales of Real Life (1813), Valentine’s Eve (1816), Tales of the Heart (1818), and Madeline (1822).

Opie, Amelia. The Father and Daughter: with, Dangers of Coquetry. Edited by SHelley King and John B. Pierce. Broadview Press, 2003.

Opie, Amelia. The Collected Poems of Amelia Alderson Opie. Edited by Shelley King and John B. Pierce. Oxford University Press, 2009.

Blogging from A-Z April 2018 Challenge

J is for Frances Jacson


Frances Margaretta Jacson (born 13 October 1754 at Bebington, Cheshire, died 17 June 1842 at Somersal Herbert, Derbyshire) was an English novelist whose work shows a strong moral purpose. Jacson’s first novel, Plain Sense (1795) was immediately popular and followed by a second, Disobedience (1797). These and her subsequent novels appeared anonymously.

Things by their Right Names (1812) was followed by Rhoda. A Novel (1816), for which she turned to one of the foremost London novel publishers. It is considered the more accomplished of the two. This second pair of novels were wrongly ascribed to the Scottish writer Mary Brunton; in fact, Jacson’s authorship was not suggested until 1823. There were further false attributions to Alethea Lewis in the early twentieth century.

Despite the financial motives behind her writing activity, Jacson never abandoned her moral purpose, so that her novels are didactic, all featuring a heroine in relatively high society. Through them she shows strong creative insight, especially into burgeoning relationships and marriage. In most cases, her heroines discern flaws in the perceptions of themselves and others. There is much irony in the portrayal of several minor characters. Rhoda was preferred to Jane Austen’s Emma by Maria Edgeworth, from whom the Jacson sisters received a social call in 1818. It was also recommended by Sydney Smith. Isabella (1823) was written in a calmer period of Jacson’s life. The French translation, Isabelle Hastings, by Madame Collet in 1823, was wrongly ascribed to William Godwin. Even Jacson’s diaries, kept from 1829 until her death, were thought for a time to be her brother’s.

Jacson, Frances. Plain sense: a novel. Gale ECCO Press, 2010.

Jacson, Frances. Disobedience: a novel. Gale ECCO Press, 2010.

Jacson, Frances. Rhoda: a novel. Gale NCCO Press, 2017.

Blogging from A-Z April 2018 Challenge

I is for Elizabeth Inchbald

Elizabeth Inchbald (née Simpson) (1753–1821) was an English novelist, actress, and dramatist. Her two novels, A Simple Story, and Nature and Art, have been frequently reprinted and are still read today. Her play Lovers’ Vows (1798) was featured as a focus of moral controversy by Jane Austen in her novel Mansfield Park.
Between 1784 and 1805, Elizabeth Inchbald had 19 of her comedies, sentimental dramas, and farces (many of them translations from the French) performed at London theatres. Her first play to be performed was A Mogul Tale, in which she played the leading feminine role of Selina. In 1780, she joined the Covent Garden Company and played a breeches role in Philaster as Bellarion. Eighteen of her plays were published, though she wrote several more; the exact number is in dispute though most recent scholars claim between 21 and 23. She also did considerable editorial and critical work. Inchbald destroyed her four-volume length autobigraphy upon the advice of her confessor, but she did leave some of her diaries. The latter are currently held at the Folger Shakespeare Library. and an edition was recently published.

A political radical and friend of William Godwin and Thomas Holcroft, Inchbald’s political beliefs can more easily be found in her novels than in her plays, due to the constrictive environment of the patent theatres of Georgian London. She died on 1 August 1821 in Kensington and is buried in the churchyard of St Mary Abbots. On her gravestone it states, “Whose writings will be cherished while truth, simplicity, and feelings, command public admiration.” In 1833, a two-volume Memoirs of Mrs. Inchbald by James Boaden was published by Richard Bentley.
Inchbald, Elizabeth. A Simple Story. Edited by J.M.S. Tompkins; introduction by Jane Spencer. Oxford University Press, 2009.
Inchbald, Elizabeth. Nature and Art. Edited by Shawn Lisa Maurer. Broadview Press, 2004.
Inchbald, Elizabeth. Selected Comedies. Edited by Roger Manvell. University Press of America, 1987.

Blogging from A-Z April 2018 Challenge

H is for Mary Sidney Herbert


Mary Herbert, Countess of Pembroke (née Sidney; 27 October 1561 – 25 September 1621) was one of the first English women to achieve a major reputation for her poetry and literary patronage. By the age of 39, she was listed with her brother Philip Sidney, Edmund Spenser, and William Shakespeare, as one of the notable authors of her time in the verse miscellany by John Bodenham, Belvedere. The influence of her Antonius is widely recognized: it stimulated a revived interest in the soliloquy based on classical models, and was a likely source (among others) for both the 1594 closet drama Cleopatra by Samuel Daniel and Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra (1607). Sidney Herbert was also known for her translation of Petrarch’s “Triumph of Death” (from Triumphs), but it is her lyric translation of the Psalms that has secured her poetic reputation.

Mary Sidney Herbert created a literary salon in her home, Wilton House. The “Wilton Circle” included Spenser, Daniel, Michael Drayton, Ben Jonson and Sir John Davies. She also received more dedications than any other woman of non-royal status and was named as Samuel Daniel’s muse in his poem Delia (an anagram for ideal).

Her brother, Philip Sidney, wrote much of his Arcadia at Wilton House. He also likely began preparing his English lyric version of the Book of Psalms at Wilton as well. He had completed 43 of the 150 Psalms at the time of his death during a military campaign against the Spanish in the Netherlands in 1586. Mary Sidney Herbert finished her brother’s translation of the Psalms, composing Psalms 44-150 in a dazzling array of verse forms, using the 1560 Geneva Bible and commentaries by John Calvin and Theodore Beza. A copy of the completed psalter was prepared for Queen Elizabeth I in 1599, in anticipation of a royal visit, but Elizabeth canceled her planned visit to Wilton. The psalter is usually referred to as The Sidney Psalms or The Sidney-Pembroke Psalter and is considered an important influence on the development of English religious lyric poetry in the late 16th and early 17th century. John Donne wrote a poem celebrating the verse psalter, and claiming that he could “scarce” call the English Church reformed until its psalter had been modeled after the poetic translations of Philip Sidney and Mary Sidney Herbert.

Mary was instrumental in having her brother’s An Apology for Poetry (or, Defence of Poesy) put into print. She also circulated the Sidney-Pembroke Psalter in manuscript at about the same time, which suggests a proximate relationship in their design: both the Defence and the translation of the Psalter argued for the ethical recuperation of poetry as an instrument for moral instruction—and particularly for religious instruction.

By at least 1591, the Pembrokes were providing patronage to the Pembroke’s Men playing company, one of the early companies to perform the works of Shakespeare. Mary’s husband died in 1600 leaving her with less financial support than she might have expected. By some accounts, King James I visited Wilton on his way to his coronation in 1603 and stayed again at Wilton following the coronation to avoid the plague. According to one account, Shakespeare’s company “The King’s Men” performed at Wilton at this time.

In addition to the arts, Mary had a range of interests. She had a chemistry laboratory at Wilton House, where she developed medicines and invisible ink. In 1615 she commenced the building of a grand hunting lodge with fine vistas, Houghton House in Bedfordshire, on an estate granted to her by King James I, which she completed in 1621, shortly before her death. It is said that the house, today a ruin, was the model for House Beautiful in John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678).

In addition to her closet drama Antonius, a translation of the French play Marc-Antoine (1578) by Robert Garnier, Mary is known to have translated two other works: A discourse of life and death by Philippe de Mornay, which was published with Antonius in 1592; and Petrarch’s The triumph of death, which circulated in manuscript. Her original poems include the pastoral, “A dialogue betweene two shepheards, Thenot and Piers, in praise of Astrea,” and the two dedicatory addresses, one to Elizabeth I, and one to her brother Philip, contained in the Tixall manuscript copy of her verse Psalter.

Although the psalms were not printed during her lifetime, they had an extensive manuscript publication, with 17 extant manuscripts today. A later engraving of Sidney Herbert shows her holding the psalms. Her influence—through literary patronage, publishing her brother’s works and her own verse forms, dramas, and translations—can be assessed in a number of ways. Contemporary poets who commended Sidney Herbert’s verse psalms include Daniel, Davies, Donne, Drayton, Sir John Harington, Ben Jonson, Aemelia Lanyer, and Thomas Moffet. The importance and influence of the translation of the Psalter is evident in the devotional lyric poems of Barnabe Barnes, Nicholas Breton, Henry Constable, Francis Davison, Giles Fletcher, and Abraham Fraunce—and its influence upon the later religious poetry of Donne, George Herbert, Henry Vaughan, and John Milton has been critically recognized.

Herbert, Mary Sidney. Collected Works of Lady Mary Sidney Herbert. Edited by Margaret P. Hannay, Noel J. Kinammon, and Michael P. Brennan. Clarendon Press,1998.

Herbert, Mary Sidney. Selected Works of Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke. Edited by Margaret P. Hannay, Noel J. Kinammon, and Michael P. Brennan.  Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, 2005.

Sidney, Philip and Mary Sidney Herbert. The Sidney Psalter : The Psalms of Sir Philip and Mary Sidney. Edited by Hannibal Hamlin, Michael G. Brennan, Margaret P. Hannay, and Noel J. Kinnamon. Oxford University Press, 2009.