Wilson, Caroline (DNB00)
WILSON, Mrs. CAROLINE (1787–1846), author, was born at Tunbridge Wells on 31 Dec. 1787. She was the ninth child of John Fry, a farmer in easy circumstances. He was ambitious for his children, and gave the elder ones an excellent education. The eldest son, John (d. 1849), became rector of Desford, and had some reputation as an author. Caroline was instructed by her elder sisters, and read widely. Shortly before his death, about 1802, her father printed and published at the Tunbridge Wells library a few hundred copies of a history of England in verse. Caroline had composed it for her own schoolroom, and the production had a successful sale. During her father's lifetime she led a very secluded life, and imbibed high-church principles. At the age of seventeen she was sent to a London school for a year and a quarter, and then went to reside with a solicitor and his wife at Bloomsbury; they introduced her into society, and she characterises the three years spent with them as without serious interests or much religion. But, as is shown by the character of her writings, the frivolities of this period had little effect on her deeply religious mind. In 1823 she commenced bringing out the ‘Assistant of Education,’ a periodical publication edited and almost wholly written by herself. In a letter to her brother in 1826 she says that six numbers of her magazine are ordered monthly for his majesty's library. It filled ten volumes. ‘The Listener’ (2 vols.), the work by which she is best known, was compiled from the ‘Assistant of Education,’ and contains moral essays and tales on such subjects as education, conduct, and practical religion. It passed through thirteen editions between 1830, the date of the first edition, and 1863, was printed in America, and translated into French (Paris, 1844). In 1831 she visited Paris, and in that year married Mr. Wilson. After her marriage she lived at Blackheath and Woolwich. She continued to write hymns and religious books. ‘Christ our Example’ (3rd ed. 1832) had nine editions between its first appearance and 1873; in a preface to the ninth edition Canon Christopher gives it the highest praise. Of her hymns the best known are ‘For what shall I praise Thee, my God and my King,’ and ‘Often the clouds of deepest woe.’ She died at Tunbridge Wells on 17 Sept. 1846.
Her portrait, painted in 1827 by Sir Thomas Lawrence, shows her to have been a very handsome woman. An engraving of her portrait by H. Robinson forms the frontispiece of the ‘Autobiography’ edited by her husband in 1848.
Other works by Mrs. Wilson are:
- ‘A Poetical Catechism,’ 1821; 5th ed. 1857.
- ‘Serious Poetry,’ 1822; 2nd ed. 1823.
- ‘Death, and other Poems,’ 1823.
- ‘The Scripture Reader's Guide,’ 1828; 16th ed. 1849; new edition, 1864 (this is part of the ‘Assistant of Education’).
- ‘Scripture Principles of Education,’ 1833; 4th ed. 1839; new edition, 1864.
- ‘The Gospel of the Old Testament,’ 1834.
- ‘Daily Scripture Readings,’ 1835; 2nd ed. 1840.
- ‘The Table of the Lord,’ 1837.
- ‘Gatherings,’ 1839, 1849.
- ‘The Listener’ in Oxford, 1839, 1840.
- ‘A Word to Women,’ 1840.
- ‘Christ our Law,’ 1842; 9th ed. 1893.
- ‘Sunday Afternoons at Home,’ 1844; 2nd ed. 1847.
- ‘The Great Commandment,’ 1847.
[Allibone's Dict. of Engl. Lit.; Julian's Dict. of Hymnology, p. 1825; An Autobiography, Letters and Remains of the author of The Listener, ed. by her husband, 1848.]