Latter, Mary (DNB00)

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LATTER, MARY (1725–1777), authoress, daughter of a country attorney, was born at Henley-upon-Thames in 1725. She settled at Reading, where her mother died in 1748. Her income was small, and she indulged a propensity for versification. Among her early attempts were some verses 'descriptive of the persons and characters of several ladies in Reading,' which she thought proper to disown in a rhymed advertisement inserted in the 'Reading Mercury,' 17 Nov. 1740. In 1759 appeared at Reading 'The Miscellaneous Works, in Prose and Verse, of Mrs. Mary Latter,' in three parts, consisting respectively of epistolary correspondence, poems, and soliloquies, and (part iii.) a sort of prose poem, prompted by a perusal of Young's 'Night Thoughts,' and entitled 'A Retrospective View of Indigence, or the Danger of Spiritual Poverty.' A short appendix treats of temporal poverty, and describes the writer as resident 'not very far from the market-place, immersed in business and in debt; sometimes madly hoping to gain a competency; sometimes justly fearing dungeons and distress.' The work is inscribed to Mrs. Loveday, wife of John Loveday [q.v.] of Caversham. In 1763 she published a tragedy entitled 'The Siege of Jerusalem by Titus Vespasian,' to which was prefixed 'An Essay on the Mystery and Mischiefs of Stagecraft.' The play had previously been accepted by Rich, the patentee of Covent Garden, who took the authoress under his protection, desiring her 'to remain in his house in order, as he kindly said, that by frequenting the theatre she might improve in the knowledge of it.' Rich died before the play could be produced, but it was subsequently performed at Reading (1768) and proved a failure. In addition to the above, Mrs. Latter wrote: 1. 'A Miscellaneous Poetical Essay in three parts,' 1761, 8vo. 2. 'A Lyric Ode on the Birth of the Prince of Wales' (George IV), 1763, 8vo. 3. 'Liberty and Interest: a Burlesque Poem on the Present Times,' London, 1764, 4to (see Gent. Mag. 1764, p. 91). 4. 'Pro and Con, or the Opinionists, an ancient fragment,' 1771, 8vo. She died at Reading on 28 March 1777, and was buried in the churchyard of St. Lawrence in that town.

[Baker's Biog. Dram. i. 439, iii. 272; Coates's Hist. of Reading, p. 447; Doran's Hist. of Reading, p. 273; Watt's Bibl. Brit. ii. 589; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

T. S.