1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Morgan, Sydney, Lady

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MORGAN, SYDNEY, Lady (c. 1783-1859), British authoress, daughter of Robert Owenson, an Irish actor, was born in 1783 in Dublin. She was one of the most vivid and hotly discussed literary figures of her generation. She began her career with a precocious volume of poems. She collected Irish tunes, for which she composed the words, thus setting a fashion adopted with signal success by Tom Moore. Her St Clair (1804), a novel of ill-judged marriage, ill-starred love, and impassioned nature-worship, in which the influence of Goethe and Rousseau was apparent, at once attracted attention. Another novel, The Novice of St Dominick (1806), was also praised for its qualities of imagination and description. But the book which made her reputation and brought her name into warm controversy was The Wild Irish Girl (1806), in which she appeared as the ardent champion of her native country, a politician rather than a novelist, extolling the beauty of Irish scenery, the richness of the natural wealth of Ireland, and the noble traditions of its early history. She was known in Catholic and Liberal circles by the name of her heroine “Glorvina.” Patriotic Sketches and Metrical Fragments followed in 1807. Miss Owenson entered the household of the marquess of Abercorn, and in 1812, persuaded by Lady Abercorn, she married the surgeon to the household, Thomas Charles Morgan, afterwards knighted; but books still continued to flow from her facile pen. In 1814 she produced her best novel, O'Donnell. She was at her best in her descriptions of the poorer classes, of whom she had a thorough knowledge. Her elaborate study (1817) of France under the Bourbon restoration was attacked with outrageous fury in the Quarterly, the authoress being accused of Jacobinism, falsehood, licentiousness and impiety. She took her revenge indirectly in the novel of Florence Macarthy (1818), in which a Quarterly reviewer, Con Crawley, is insulted with supreme feminine ingenuity. Italy, a companion work to her France, was published in 1821; Lord Byron bears testimony to the justness of its pictures of life. The results of Italian historical studies were given in her Life and Times of Salvator Rosa (1823). Then she turned again to Irish manners and politics with a matter-of-fact book on Absenteeism (1825), and a romantic novel, The O'Briens and the O'Flahertys (1827). From Lord Melbourne Lady Morgan obtained a pension of £300. During the later years of her long life she published The Book of the Boudoir (1829), Dramatic Scenes from Real Life (1833), The Princess (1835), Woman and her Master (1840), The Book without a Name (1841), Passages from my Autobiography (1859). She died on the 14th of April 1859.

Her autobiography and many interesting letters were edited with a memoir by W. Hepworth Dixon in 1862.