Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Jewsbury, Maria Jane

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

JEWSBURY, MARIA JANE, afterwards Mrs. Fletcher (1800–1833), authoress, eldest daughter of Thomas Jewsbury, was born at Measham, Derbyshire, on the border of Leicestershire, on 25 Oct. 1800. She was educated at a school at Shenstone kept by a Mrs. Adams, but when fourteen years old she was taken away on account of her delicate health. About 1818 her family removed to Manchester. Shortly afterwards she lost her mother, whereupon the charge of her sister Geraldine [q. v.] and three brothers fell upon her. Her first published poem came out in ‘Aston's Manchester Herald.’ In 1824 she was induced by Alaric A. Watts, editor of the ‘Manchester Courier,’ to adopt literature as a profession, and through his introduction her first work, ‘Phantasmagoria, or Sketches of Life and Character,’ was published at Leeds (2 vols. 8vo), with a dedication to Wordsworth. About this time she had a long and serious illness, in the course of which she wrote her ‘Letters to the Young,’ published in 1828, 12mo; 2nd edition 1829, 3rd edition 1832. In 1829 her ‘Lays of Leisure Hours’ were issued with a dedication to Mrs. Hemans. In the following year she brought out her last work, ‘The Three Histories: the History of an Enthusiast, the History of a Nonchalant, the History of a Realist,’ 8vo; 2nd edition 1832, 3rd edition, Derby, 1838. Much of her best writing appeared from 1830 to 1832 in the ‘Athenæum.’ She also wrote in one or more of the annuals, but nothing she ever wrote, clever though it was, gave an adequate idea of her actual talents.

On 1 Aug. 1832 she married, at Penegroes, Montgomeryshire, the Rev. William Kew Fletcher, a chaplain in the East India Company's service, with whom she sailed for Bombay. She died fourteen months later, on 4 Oct. 1833, at Poonah, a victim to cholera. Some extracts from the journal of her voyage to and residence in India are given in Espinasse's ‘Lancashire Worthies.’

In person she was tall and well-formed. Her vivacity and conversational powers rendered her remarkably fascinating to her friends. Wordsworth, who addressed his poem of ‘Liberty’ to her in 1829, said that in the quickness of the motions of her mind she had no equal within the range of his acquaintance. Miss Landon spoke of the ‘extreme perfection of her language; it was like reading an eloquent book full of thought and poetry.’ Christopher North, in ‘Noctes Ambrosianæ,’ March 1829, speaks in eulogistic terms of her genius.

There are portraits of her in William Cooke Taylor's ‘National Portrait Gallery,’ vol. iii., and the ‘Christian Keepsake.’ Mr. Fletcher died in 1867 at Worthing.

[National Portrait Gallery, iii. 36; Espinasse's Lanc. Worthies, vol. ii.; Athenæum, February 1845, p. 114; Chorley's Memorials of Mrs. Hemans, i. 180; Life of Alaric A. Watts, 1884, i. 178, ii. 16; S. C. Hall's Retrospect, 1883, ii. 148; Knight's Life of Wordsworth, iii. 108–110, 112; Knight's edition of Wordsworth, viii. 204, 212.]

C. W. S.