Fletcher, Eliza (DNB00)

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FLETCHER, ELIZA (1770–1858), autobiographer, was born on 15 Jan. 1770, at Oxton, near Tadcaster in Yorkshire, where her father, named Dawson, descendant of a race of yeomen, was a land surveyor, and lived on a little family estate. Eliza was the only child of his marriage with the eldest daughter of William Hill. The mother died ten days after the birth. At eleven years old Eliza, a beautiful, intelligent girl, was sent to the Manor School at York. The mistress (Mrs. Forster) was ‘a very well-disposed, conscientious old gentlewoman,’ but incapable of proper superintendence. ‘Four volumes of the “Spectator” constituted the whole school library.’ Miss Dawson had a profound admiration for William Mason the poet, then a York notability, especially on account of his ‘Monody’ upon his wife's death, and was shocked at seeing him ‘a little fat old man of hard-favoured countenance,’ devoted to whist. When she was seventeen accident brought to her father's house a Scotch advocate, Archibald Fletcher [q. v.], ‘of about forty-three, and of a grave, gentlemanlike, prepossessing appearance.’ They carried on a literary correspondence for a year, and after another meeting became engaged, though the father opposed the union, preferring a higher suitor, Lord Grantley. Miss Dawson got a friend, Dr. Kilvington, to tell Lord Grantley of her engagement. On 16 July 1791 the lovers were married in Tadcaster Church. Her father did not sanction the ceremony by his presence, but he could not withhold his blessing. For seven-and-thirty years, at the end of which time her husband died, ‘there was not a happier couple in the three kingdoms.’ Fletcher's steady adherence to his whig principles prevented his getting into practice, and they were often reduced to their last guinea. Her sympathy prevented her from ever regretting the sacrifice to principle. Afterwards success in life set steadily in with little interruption. Mrs. Fletcher died at Edinburgh 5 Feb. 1858. Her ‘Autobiography,’ of which a few copies had been printed for private circulation, 8vo, Carlisle, 1874, was published at Edinburgh the following year under the editorship of her surviving child, the widow of Sir John Richardson, the Arctic explorer. The ‘Life’ also contains a memoir by Mrs. Fletcher of her daughter Grace, and another of her son Archibald, by his widow. It is an attractive book about a most lovable woman, who seems, according to her portraits, at fifteen and eighty, to prove ‘that there is a beauty for every age.’

[Autobiography of Mrs. Fletcher of Edinburgh; Gent. Mag. 3rd ser. iv. 340; Athenæum, 1 May 1875.]

G. G.