Gunning, Susannah (DNB00)

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GUNNING, Mrs. SUSANNAH (1740?–1800), novelist, was married on 8 Aug. 1768 (Gent. Mag. 1768, p. 398) as Miss Minifie of Fairwater, Somersetshire, to John Gunning, son of John Gunning of Castlecoote, co. Roscommon, and of Hemingford Grey, Huntingdonshire, by Bridget, daughter of the sixth Viscount Bourke of Mayo (Burke, Peerage, ed. 1889, p. 640). Her husband's sisters, Elizabeth and Maria, were the famous beauties [see Coventry, Maria, Countess, and Gunning, Elizabeth, Duchess of Hamilton and of Argyll]. Her husband, John Gunning, a man of dissolute life, is said to have distinguished himself at the battle of Bunker's Hill, and rose to be a lieutenant-general in the army, and colonel of the 65th regiment of foot, through the interest of his brother-in-law, the Duke of Argyll. His only child Elizabeth, a beautiful and accomplished girl, born in 1769, carried on simultaneous flirtations with her cousin, the Marquis of Lorne, and with the Marquis of Blandford, who was said to be favoured by her mother (cf. Walpole, Letters, ed. Cunningham, ix. 284, and elsewhere). General Gunning wrote to the Duke of Marlborough on 3 Feb. 1791 inquiring into Lord Blandford's intentions. A reply showing that Lord Blandford had changed his mind was returned, and afterwards appeared to be a forgery, presumably by Miss Gunning. A Mrs. Bowen forwarded some letters to the general, in which his daughter declared her passion for Lord Lorne. The general, enraged at his daughter's deceit, turned her out of doors. Mrs. Gunning followed, and both were received by the Duchess of Bedford. Many squibs and satires on what Walpole calls the 'Gunningiad' were circulated. One of these is in Nichols's 'Illustrations,' vii. 716. In March 1791 Mrs. Gunning published a Letter … addressed to his grace the Duke of Argyll,' declaring that the letters were an infamous forgery fabricated by Mrs. Bowen and Captain Essex Bowen, her husband. Captain Bowen, after vainly seeking legal redress, replied in the following April in 'A Statement of Facts in answer to Mrs. Gunning's Letter.' Soon afterwards General Gunning was accused of an intrigue with a Mrs, Duberly, and on 22 Feb. 1792 a jury, swayed by Erskine's eloquence, awarded the lady's husband 5,000l. damages. The general, with his mistress, had retired to Naples, where he died on 2 Sept, 1797. It is said that he altered his will the day before his death, in consequence of a letter he had received from his daughter: to her and to his wife he left 8,000l., and to the latter he also bequeathed his estate in Ireland (Gent. Mag. 1797, pt.ii p. 892). Mrs. Gunning died in Down Street, London, on 28 Aug. 1800, aged 60, and was buried in the north cloister at Westminster Abbey (Chester, Reg. of Westminster Abbey, p. 464). Before her marriage and after her separation she wrote various novels, including, 1. 'The Histories of Lady Frances S—— and Lady Caroline S—— ,' 4 vols.8 vo, London, 1763 (with her sister Margaret). 2. 'Barford Abbey: a novel;' in a series of letters [anon.], 2 vols. 12mo, London, 1708. 3. 'The Count de Poland,' 4 vols. 12mo, London, 1780. 4. 'Anecdotes of the Delborough Family,' 5 vols. 12mo, London, 1792. 5. 'Virginius and Virginia; a poem in six parts, from the Roman history,' &c., 4to, London [1792], 6. 'Memoirs of Mary: a novel,' 5 vols. 12mo, London, 1793; 3rd edit. 1794, which was supposed to contain allusions to the family scandals. 7. 'Delves: a Welch Tale,' 2 vols. 12mo, London, 1796. 8. 'Love at First Sight: a novel from the French,' with alterations; and additions, 5 vols. 12mo, London, 1797. 9. 'Fashionable Involvements,' 3 vols. 12mo, London, 1800. 10. 'The Heir Apparent, revised and augmented by her daughter, Miss Gunning, 3 vols. 12mo, London, 1802. She also wrote 'The Picture' (in association with her sister), 'Family Pictures,' and 'The Cottage.'

Mrs. Gunning's novels, many of which passed through several editions, are exceedingly harmless; an absence of plot forming their most original characteristic.

The daughter, Elizabeth Gunning (1769-1823), published several translations from the French, including: 1. 'Memoirs of Madame de Barneveldt,' 2 vols. 8vo, London, 1795. Prefixed to the second edition, in 1796, is a charming portrait of Miss Gunning by the younger Saunders, engraved by F. Bartolozzi, R.A. 2. 'The Wife with two Husbands: a tragi-comedy, in three acts [and in prose]. Translated from the French [of R. C. Guilbert de Pixèrecourt],' 8vo, London, 1803. She had unsuccessfully offered this, with an opera based upon it, to Covent Garden and Drury Lane. 3. Fontenelles' 'Plurality of Worlds,' 12mo, London, 1808. 4. 'Malvina, by Madame C—— [i.e.Cottin], second edition,' 4 vols. 12mo, London, 1810. Miss Gunning wrote novels not easily distinguishable from her mother's, though perhaps the conversations, which seldom occupy less than thirty pages, are of more frequent occurrence. They include 1. 'The Packet,' 4 vols. 12mo, London, 1794. 2. 'Lord Fitzhenry,' 3 vols. 12mo, London, 1794. 3. 'The Foresters,' altered from the French, 4 vols. 12mo, London, 1796. 4. 'The Orphans of Snowdon,' 3 vols. 12mo, London, 1797. 5. 'The Gipsey Countess,' 5 vols. 12mo, London, 1799. 6. 'The Village Library,' 18mo, London, 1802. 7. 'The Farmer's Boy,' from the French of Deuray Dumesnil, 4 vols. 12mo, London, 1802. 8. 'Family Stories; or Evenings at my Grandmother's,' &c., 2 vols. 12mo, London, 1802. 9. 'A Sequel to Family Stories,' &c., 12mo, London, 1802. 10. 'The Exile of Erin,' 3 vols. 12mo, London, 1808. 11. 'The Man of Fashion: a Tale of Modern Times,' 2 vols. 12mo, London, 1815. Miss Gunning married Major James Plunkett of Kinnaird, co. Roscommon, in 1803 (Gent. Mag. 1803, pt. ii. p. 1251). She died after a long illness on 20 July 1823, at Melford House, Suffolk (ib. 1823, pt. ii. p. 190).

[A Friendly Letter to the Marquess of Lorne; A Narrative of the Incidents which form the Mystery in the Family of General Gunning; Captain Essex Bowen's Statement of Facts in answer to Mrs. Gunning's Letter; Trial between James Duberly and Major-General Gunning; An Apology for the Life of Major General G——; Baker's Biographia Dramatica, 1812, i. 303; Notes and Queries, 6th ser. vii. 407, viii. 48-9, 253; Reuss's Alphabetical Register of Authors, 1790-1803, pt. i. pp. 428-9 ; [Rivers's] Lit. Memoirs of Living Authors, i. 229-31; Dict. of Living Authors, 1816, p. 278.]

G. G.