Schimmelpenninck, Mary Anne (DNB00)
|←Schiavonetti, Luigi||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 50
Schimmelpenninck, Mary Anne
SCHIMMELPENNINCK, Mrs. MARY ANNE (1778–1856), author, born at Birmingham on 25 Nov. 1778, was eldest child of Samuel Galton and his wife, Lucy Barclay (d. 1817). The latter was a descendant of Robert Barclay (1648–1690) [q. v.] of Ury, the quaker apologist. Both parents were members of the Society of Friends, and brought up their children very strictly. In 1785 the family removed to Barr in Staffordshire, and among their frequent visitors were Watt, Richard Lovell Edgeworth, Day, the author of ‘Sandford and Merton,’ Priestley, Dr. Parr, and Dr. Darwin, whose daughter Violetta married Mary Anne's eldest brother, S. Tertius Galton. Miss Galton showed at an early age intellectual tastes, which her parents and their friends helped to develop. When about eighteen she visited her cousins, the Gurneys of Earlham, and Catherine Gurney, the eldest daughter, remained her friend through life (cf. Hare, Gurneys of Earlham, ii. 263–7, 275–80). She was also the guest of Mrs. Barbauld, and the winter of 1799 was spent in London. Mary Martha Butt (afterwards Mrs. Sherwood [q. v.]) met Miss Galton at Bath about 1801, and described her as ‘a simple, agreeable person, without the smallest display’ (Kelly, Life of Mrs. Sherwood, pp. 228–9).
On 29 Sept. 1806 Miss Galton married Lambert Schimmelpenninck of Berkeley Square, Bristol, a member of a branch of the noble Dutch family of that name. He was connected with the shipping trade at Bristol, and there the newly married couple settled. Mrs. Schimmelpenninck took an active part in local charities and education, holding classes for young people at her own house. About 1811 her husband fell into pecuniary difficulties. At the same time a dispute regarding her settlements led to a breach between her and all the members of her family which was never healed. For some years previously her attitude to her own kindred seems to have been neither straightforward nor considerate. Mrs. Schimmelpenninck turned her attention to literature for a livelihood. Hannah More had, about this period, sent her some of the writings of the Port-Royalists. In 1813 Mrs. Schimmelpenninck published a compilation based on one of those volumes, ‘Narrative of a Tour to La Grande Chartreuse and Alet, by Dom. Claude Lancelot.’ A second edition was soon called for, and others followed. Mrs. Schimmelpenninck pursued her investigations into the work of the Port-Royalists, and in 1815, during a tour on the continent, she visited Port Royal. In 1816 appeared, in 3 vols., ‘Narrative of the Demolition of the Monastery of Port Royal des Champs.’ This work and its predecessor were republished, with additions, in 1829 under the title of ‘Select Memoirs of Port Royal.’ Among the subscribers were Mrs. Opie and Thomas Fowell Buxton. Sketches of the most celebrated Port-Royalists are included. The style and mode of thought show the influence of Pascal. A fifth edition appeared in 1858.
Mrs. Schimmelpenninck's interests were wide, and among her books on other subjects was ‘The Theory and Classification of Beauty and Deformity,’ 1815, a very learned compilation, but indicating no great insight. She also studied Hebrew with Mrs. Richard Smith, ‘her more than sister for forty-three years,’ and embodied the result in ‘Biblical Fragments,’ 1821–2, 2 vols.
Mrs. Schimmelpenninck passed through various phases of religious belief. Even as a child, when attending the Friends' meetings with her parents, she was troubled with doubts. She told Caroline Fox that she had ‘suffered from an indiscriminate theological education,’ and found it difficult to associate herself with any special body (cf. Fox, Memories of Old Friends, p. 215). However, in 1818 she joined the Moravians; and although towards the end of her life she was nearly drawn into the Roman catholic church, she remained a Moravian until her death.
In 1837 Mrs. Schimmelpenninck was suddenly attacked with paralysis, and removed to Clifton. Her health improved slowly. After her husband's death, in June 1840, she led a very retired life. She died at Bristol on 29 Aug. 1856, and was buried in the burying-ground of the Moravian chapel there.
Mrs. Schimmelpenninck was good-looking, high-spirited, and genial in society. Elizabeth Gurney, afterwards Mrs. Fry, said of her: ‘She was one of the most interesting and bewitching people I ever saw’ (Hare, Gurneys of Earlham, pp. 86–7). Caroline Fox gives a similar account of her (Fox, Memories of Old Friends, pp. 167–8, 215). But her relations with her own family suggest that she combined with her fine intellectual qualities some less amiable moral characteristics.
An engraved portrait, said to be an excellent likeness, forms the frontispiece of Christiana Hankin's ‘Life.’
Other works by Mrs. Schimmelpenninck are: 1. ‘Asaph, or the Herrnhutters; a rhythmical sketch of the modern history of the Moravians,’ 1822. 2. ‘Psalms according to the Authorised Version,’ 1825. 3. ‘Some Particulars relating to the late Emperor Alexander,’ translated from the French, 1830. 4. ‘The Principles of Beauty, as manifested in Nature, Art, and Human Character,’ edited by Christiana C. Hankin, 1859. 5. ‘Sacred Musings on the Manifestations of God to the Soul of Man,’ &c., edited by the same, 1860.[Miss Hankin's Life of Mrs. Schimmelpenninck (1858, 8vo), a somewhat one-sided and rose-coloured performance, is the chief authority; private information.]