Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Howitt, Mary

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623471Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 28 — Howitt, Mary1891George Clement Boase

HOWITT, MARY (1799–1888), miscellaneous writer, was born on 12 March 1799 at Coleford, Gloucestershire, the temporary residence of her parents, while her father, Samuel Botham (d.1823), a prosperous quaker of Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, was looking after some mining property. Her mother was Anne Wood, a descendant of Andrew Wood the patentee, attacked by Swift in the `Drapier letters.' Mary Botham was educated at home, soon read widely for herself in many branches, and commenced writing verses at a very early age. On 16 April 1821 she married at Uttoxeter William Howitt [q.v.], and began a career of joint authorship with her husband. Their literary productions at first consisted chiefly of poetical and other contributions to annuals and periodicals, of which a selection was published in 1827 under the title of `The Desolation of Eyam and other Poems.' The life of Mary Howitt was completely bound up with that of her husband; she was separated only from him during the period of his Australian journey (1851-4). On removing to Esher in 1837 she commenced writing her well-known tales for children, a long series of books which met with signal success. While residing at Heidelberg in 1840 her attention was directed to Scandinavian literature, and in company with her friend Madame Schoultz she set herself to learn Swedish and Danish. She afterwards translated Fredrika Bremer's novels (1842-1863, 18 vols.), works which she was the first to make known to English readers. She also translated many of Hans Andersen's tales, such as `Only a Fiddler,' 1845, `The Improvisatore,' 1845, 1847, `Wonderful Stories for Children,' 1846, `The True Story of every Life,' 1847. Among her original works were `The Heir of West Waylan,' 1847. She edited for three years the `Drawing-room Scrap Book,' writing for it among other articles `Biographical Sketches of the Queens of England.' She edited the 'Pictorial Calendar of the Seasons,' translated Ennemoser's 'History of Magic,' and took the chief share in `The Literature and Romance of Northern Europe,' 1852. She also produced a `Popular History of the United States' (2 vols. 1859), and a three-volume novel called `The Cost of Caergwyn' (1864). Her name was attached as author, translator, or editor to upwards of 110 works. From the Literary Academy of Stockholm she received a silver medal. On 21 April 1879 she was awarded a civil list pension of 100l. a year. In the decline of her life she joined the church of Rome, and was one of the English deputation who were received by the pope on 10 Jan. 1888. Her interesting `Reminiscences of my Later Life' were printed in `Good Words' in 1886. The death of her husband in 1879, and of her eldest child, Mrs. A. A. Watts, in 1884, caused her intense grief. The `Times' says, speaking of the Howitts: `Their friends used jokingly to call them William and Mary, and to maintain that they had been crowned together like their royal prototypes. Nothing that either of them wrote will live, but they were so industrious, so disinterested, so amiable, so devoted to the work of spreading good and innocent literature, that their names ought not to disappear unmourned.' Mary Howitt, having removed from her usual residence at Meran in the Tyrol to spend the winter in Rome, died there of bronchitis on 30 Jan. 1888. A portrait is prefixed to Margaret Hewitt's `Life of Mary Howitt,' 1889.

Among the works written, like those already mentioned, independently of her husband, were:

  1. `Sketches of Natural History,' 1834.
  2. `Wood Leighton, or a Year in the Country,' 1836.
  3. `Birds and Flowers and other Country Things,' 1838.
  4. 'Hymns and Fireside Verses,' 1839.
  5. 'Hope on, Hope ever, a Tale,' 1840.
  6. 'Strive and Thrive,' 1840.
  7. 'Sowing and Reaping, or What will come of it,' 1841.
  8. 'Work and Wages, or Life in Service,' 1842.
  9. 'Which is the Wiser? or People Abroad,' 1842.
  10. 'Little Coin, Much Care,' 1842.
  11. 'No Sense like Common Sense,' 1843.
  12. 'Love and Money,' 1843.
  13. 'My Uncle the Clockmaker,' 1844.
  14. 'The Two Apprentices,' 1844.
  15. 'My own Story, or the Autobiography of a Child,' 1845.
  16. 'Fireside Verses,' 1845.
  17. 'Ballads and other Poems,' 1847.
  18. 'The Children's Year,' 1847.
  19. 'The Childhood of Mary Leeson,' 1848.
  20. 'Our Cousins in Ohio,' 1849.
  21. 'The Heir of Wast-Waylan,' 1851.
  22. 'The Dial of Love,' 1853.
  23. 'Birds and Flowers and other Country Things,' 1855.
  24. 'The Picture Book for the Young,' 1855.
  25. 'M. Howitt's Illustrated Library for the Young,' 1856; two series.
  26. 'Lillieslea, or Lost and Found,' 1861.
  27. 'Little Arthur's Letters to his Sister Mary,' 1861.
  28. 'The Poet's Children,' 1863.
  29. 'The Story of Little Cristal,' 1863.
  30. 'Mr. Rudd's Grandchildren,' 1864.
  31. 'Tales in Prose for Young People,' 1864.
  32. 'M. Howitt's Sketches of Natural History, 1864.
  33. 'Tales in Verse for Young People,' 1865.
  34. 'Our Four-footed Friends,' 1867.
  35. 'John Oriel's Start in Life,' 1868.
  36. 'Pictures from Nature,' 1869.
  37. 'Vignettes of American History,' 1869.
  38. 'A Pleasant Life,' 1871.
  39. 'Birds and their Nests,' 1872.
  40. 'Natural History Stories,' 1875.
  41. ' Tales for all Seasons,' 1881. 42.
  42. 'Tales of English Life, including Middleton and the Middletons,' 1881.

[Margaret Howitt's Life of Mary Howitt, 1889, with two portraits; Good Words, 1886, pp. 52, 172, 330, 394, 592; Hale's Woman's Record, 1855, pp. 699-702, with portrait; Athenæum, 4 Feb. 1888, p. 148, and 11 Feb. p. 181; Times, 3 Feb. 1888, p. 7, and 7 Feb. p. 8; Graphic, 18 Feb. 1888, p. 168, with portrait; Alaric Watts's Life, 1884,ii. 1-15; Godey's Lady's Book, 1852, xlv. 320-2; information from Mrs. John Macdonell; and the authorities mentioned under William Howitt.]

G. C. B.