Gordon, Lucie (DNB00)

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GORDON, LUCIE or LUCY, Lady Duff-Gordon (1821–1869), author and translator, only child of John Austin [q. v.] the jurist, by his wife Sarah Austin [q. v.], translator, was born in Queen Square, Westminster, 24 June 1821, where her chief playfellows were her first cousin, Henry Reeve, and John Stuart Mill. As she grew in vigour and in sense, she developed a strong tinge of originality and independence, with a very marked love of animals. In 1826 she went with her parents to Bonn on the Rhine, and stayed sufficiently long to return speaking German like her own language. She had but little regular instruction, but was for a short time at a mixed school of boys and girls kept by Dr. Biber at Hampstead, where she learnt Latin. In 1836, while her parents were in Malta, she was at Miss Shepherd's school at Bromley. Her father and mother were unitarians, but at the age of sixteen she was baptised and confirmed as a member of the church of England. On 16 May 1840 she married in Kensington old church Sir Alexander Cornewall Duff-Gordon, baronet, of Halkin, county Ayr. He was born in Great Marylebone Street, London, 3 Feb. 1811, and became assistant gentleman usher of the privy chamber to her majesty, was appointed a senior clerk in the treasury 1854, and two years afterwards was named a commissioner of the board of inland revenue. The newly married couple resided at 8 Queen Square, Westminster, a house with a statue of Queen Anne at one end, since renumbered and renamed 15 Queen Anne's Gate. Here a remarkable circle of friends and acquaintances frequently met. Lord Lansdowne, Lord Monteagle, Dickens, Thackeray, Eliot Warburton, Tom Taylor, Tennyson, Kinglake, and Henry Taylor were habitués, and every foreigner of talent and renown looked upon the house as a centre of interest. On one occasion Leopold von Ranke was among the visitors. A noted character in the establishment in Queen Square was a black boy called Hassan el Bakkeet, who was well known to all the visitors; he at last was attacked with consumption, and died in the Westminster Hospital in 1849. Lucie Austin commenced her literary life by translations, her earliest work being Niebuhr's 'Studies of Ancient Grecian Mythology,' 1839. In 1844 she translated Meinhold's 'Mary Schweidler, the Amber Witch,' a narrative pretending to be derived from a seventeenth-century chronicle, and concocted in order to discredit rationalistic methods of biblical criticism. In 1845 she published 'The French in Algiers, from the German and French of C. Lamping,' and in 1846 'Narrative of Remarkable Criminal Trials, by P. J. A. von Feuerbach.' Sir A. Gordon, in conjunction with his wife, translated in 1847 'Memoirs of the House of Brandenberg, by L. von Ranke.' During 1850 the family resided at Weybridge, where Lady Duff-Gordon established and superintended a working-man's library and reading-room. At this time she translated 'Stella and Vanessa,' a romance by A. F. L. de Wailly, and in 1853 two other works: 'The Village Doctor, by the Countess d'Arbouville,' and 'Ferdinand I and Maximilian II of Austria, by L. von Ranke.' To this list of translations must be added 'The Russians in Bulgaria and Roumelia, 1828-29, by Baron von Moltke,' 1854. She edited 'The History and Literature of the Crusades, by H. C. L. von Sybel,' in 1861. As a girl Lady Duff-Gordon made the acquaintance of Heinrich Heine, and in Lord Houghton's 'Monographs Personal and Social,' 1873, pp. 323-32, will be found a very affecting narrative of her visits to the poet in Paris in 1854 shortly before his death. She went a voyage to the Cape of Good Hope in 1860 for the benefit of her health, an account of which is printed in Francis Galton's 'Vacation Tourist,' 1862-3, pp. 119-222, under the title of 'Letters from the Cape.' Finding it impossible to live in the English climate, she proceeded to Egypt in 1862, and, except two short visits to England in 1863 and 1865, made that country her home for the remainder of her life. During the first years of her residence on the Nile she wrote numerous letters to her family, in which she gave vivid descriptions of Eastern life and many details of domestic manners and customs. These communications were collected and brought out under the title of 'Letters from Egypt, 1863-65, by Lady Duff-Gordon, edited by S. Austin,' 1865, and 'Last Letters from Egypt,' 1875. These works had a considerable circulation, and are the best known and the most interesting of this writer's productions. Throughout her long stay in Egypt she won golden opinions from the natives. Her unvarying kindness, her attention to the sick, her charm of manner, and her sympathy with the oppressed, endeared her to all the people, by whom she was known as 'Sitt el Kebeer,' the great lady, who 'was just and had a heart that loved the Arabs.' She died at Cairo 14 July 1869, aged 48, and was buried in the English cemetery at that place. Sir Alexander C. Duff-Gordon died at 4 Upper Eccleston Street, Belgrave Square, London, 27 Oct. 1872, aged 61.

[Last Letters from Egypt, to which are added Letters from the Cape, by Lady Duff-Gordon, with a Memoir by her daughter, Mrs. Ross, 1875, pp. i-xl, with portrait; Lettres d'Egypte par Lady Duff-Gordon, traduites par Mrs. Ross. Paris, 1879; Reg. and Mag. of Biogr. August 1869, pp. 95-6; Macmillan's Mag. September 1869, pp. 457-62, by the Hon. Mrs. Norton, and October 1874, pp. 530-40, by Janet Ross; Good Words, 1875, pp. 637-40; Times. 29 July 1869, p. 12, and 30 Oct. 1872, p. 7.]

G. C. B.