Frances Brooke

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Frances Brooke around 1771, by Catherine Read

Frances Brooke (born Moore, baptized January 24, 1724 in Claypole , Lincolnshire , † January 23, 1789 in Sleaford , Lincolnshire) was an English-Canadian novelist and playwright .


Frances Moore was born in January 1724 as the eldest of three children of Thomas Moore (1699–1727), pastor of Claypole, and Mary Moore b. Knowls († 1738) born. The mother's father, Richard Knowls, was a pastor of Hougham and Marston , Lincolnshire. When she was about two years old, the family moved to Carlton Scroop , Lincolnshire, where her father Thomas took over the pastorate from his father Williamson Moore. However, he died the following year. After her father's death in 1727, Mary Moore moved with her daughters to live with her mother and sister Sarah in Peterborough. After their mother's death in December 1738, the two surviving sisters, Frances and Sarah, moved to Tydd St. Mary to live with their aunt Sarah and her husband, Roger Steevens, the vicar of Tydd St. Mary.

Frances Moore received a very good education. Her mother Mary Moore is said to have been responsible for this, as reported in an article that appeared in the British Magazine and Review in February 1783 (2, 101-3). She learned French and Italian and was familiar with English literature. However, she did not learn Latin. The funds for her education were provided by her late father. She received £ 35 per year from his estate in the years up to the age of majority. When she came of age in 1745, she was paid £ 500. From 1748 she lived in London . Between 1751 and 1752 she sold her stake in the properties that she had inherited with her sister Sarah. She traveled frequently and moved several times. In 1751 she was part of the parish of St. Anne's in Soho , then in Waltham Holy Cross , Essex , and later with her uncle in Tinwell . She and her sister Sarah regularly visited their aunt and uncle in Tydd St Mary.

Around 1754, Frances Moore married the widowed Anglican priest John Brooke (1707? –1789), who brought a daughter into the marriage. Brooke had been ordained in 1733 and had several parishes in and near Norwich , but spent much of his time in London. In 1748 he was appointed "afternoon priest" of Longacre Chapel by the Bishop of London. In the mid-1750s he assisted in His Majesty's Chapel in Savoy. Around 1755 they probably had a daughter who, however, died in childhood; their son John Moore Brooke was born on June 10, 1757 in London.

First publications

By 1755 she had written several poems and the tragedy Virginia . Famous 18th century actor David Garrick initially declined to appear in this play. He insisted he didn't like it; however, later schedules indicate that he still appeared in the piece. The sisters also met Samuel Johnson . A great-nephew of Sarah Moore reported about his meeting with Johnson, which took place shortly after his dictionary was published in 1755:

“The two ladies paid him due compliments on the occasion. Amongst other topics of praise, they very much commended the omission of all naughty words. 'What! my dears! then you have been looking for them? ' said Johnson. The ladies, confused at being thus caught, dropped the subject of the dictionary. "

“On this occasion, the two ladies paid him due compliments. Among other things, they praised the omission of all naughty words. 'What! my dear! Then you went looking for them? 'Said Johnson. The ladies, confused that they were caught like this, dropped the subject of the dictionary. "

With the weekly magazine Old Maid , which she published under the pseudonym "Mary Singleton, Spinster" from November 15, 1755 to July 24, 1756, she started a magazine that covered a variety of topics, including the education of women, hers Position in Marriage and its Role in Public Affairs. In the first edition, it turned out to be the eldest daughter of an honorable country judge before that at the age of almost 50 years, so as an Old Maid (dt. Spinster), has decided its observations that enabled her through her life without work were to share with the public. She was supported by other gentlemen; these included John Boyle, the Earl of Cork and Orrery, her brother-in-law James Brooke, John Brooke, Richard Gifford and Arthur Murphy , who was just beginning his acting career.

At that time, Frances Brooke was putting together a collection of her works, which included poetry, some of which had already appeared in the Old Maid . In her foreword to Virginia , she stated that she would have it printed as she had no hope of ever seeing it staged. There were already two plays on the same subject and Mr. Garrick would refuse to read their work until the work of the same name by Samuel Crisp was published; an event that took place in 1754. Tobias Smollett wrote one of the most positive reviews of her work , in which he emphasized that this modern piece was one of the few truly moral and poetic works and contained many fine lines from nature. The following pastorals and odes would not be without merit and decency.

Her next publication was the English translation of the Lettres de Milady Juliette Catesby à Milady Henriette Campley son amie by Marie-Jeanne Riccoboni , a sentimental letter-style novel. Set in England, it has been hugely popular since its first appearance in 1759. The version by Frances Brooke is said to have been even more successful than the first version. Further letters from Julia Lady Catesby to her friend Lady Henrietta Campley were published in new editions in 1760, 1763, 1764, 1769 and 1780. Riccoboni asked Garrick in May 1765 if she could encourage Brooke to translate her other novels. Garrick told her about the Old Maid and ordered Brooke "to be polite and nothing more."

In her letters to Richard Gifford in the early 1760s, Brooke mentioned her financial need and discussed plans to make money. She wanted to sell some of her work to Garrick, whom she didn't particularly like. Obviously nothing came of it; the only work that she was able to publish at that time was 1763 The Story of Lady Julia Mandeville . This work, a novel in letter form, was influenced by authors such as Samuel Richardson , Marie-Jeanne Riccoboni, and probably Jean-Jacques Rousseau . The work was very well received and Voltaire described Lady Julia in a review in the Gazette littéraire on May 30, 1764 as perhaps the best novel in the letter genre in England since Richardson's Clarissa (1748) and The History of Sir Charles Grandison (1754). The novel has been translated into French and German. The popularity of Lady Julia Mandeville's story continued in Europe and North America well after the author's death.


In her fictional letters, which she published between 1762 and 1763, she spoke of the necessity and the conditions for ending the Seven Years' War . At the same time, she advocated women's right to express themselves on public affairs by discussing a political issue. Her husband had served as a chaplain in the British Army in North America since April 1757. His areas of operation included New York and later Québec . By James Murray , the military governor of the garrison and the area, he was appointed as acting chaplain of the city of Québec and appointed on 28 October 1761 as a chaplain to the garrison of Quebec. In February 1763 he was awarded a doctorate in Divinity Honoris Causa Tantum from Marischal College in Aberdeen . From the time of his arrival in Quebec, Brooke also acted as "pastor of all Protestant subjects of His Majesty who do not belong to certain regiments".

Brooke followed these developments and prepared to leave for North America. She said goodbye to her friends and together with her son and sister she traveled from London to Québec in early July 1763, which they reached on October 5th. Two days later, British military rule in Canada ended and James Murray became the first civilian governor of the Colony of Québec. From 1764 to 1765 she traveled to England, otherwise Brooke spent the years leading up to her return to London in Québec. She lived in a house just outside of town and had a busy social life. However, this also led to conflicts between the military and civilian residents of Québec. A dispute arose in the aftermath of a ball when James Murray wrote a letter to John Brooke on January 8, 1764, asking him to remember his "dignity" as a clergyman and to avoid indulging in idle let in very idle disputes of tea table talk.

Frances and her sister Sarah participated in the social life of Governor Murray and men like Attorney General Francis Maseres , who in 1766 described her as "a very sensible, pleasant woman with a much better understanding and without pedantry or impairment". She also met Henry Caldwell , Murray's land agent and later General Receiver of Lower Canada, Adam Mabane , a member of the Québec Council, and George Allsopp , a leader of the trade group in their political opposition to Murray. The governor, who found John Brooke indescribable and who he believed tended to interfere politically and socially, had hoped that the presence of Frances Brooke and her sister "would have made a difference in the chaplain," but stated that they were "on the contrary, interfere more than he".

John Brooke tried to get Protestants in Québec and Montreal , including those who did not belong to the Anglican Church. He also tried, although he had only very inadequate language skills, to convert the French-speaking Catholics to his faith. His endeavor was to revive the Church of England in the province. This also meant that he tried to generate additional income for himself and his family. He tried to implement what he believed to be British policy towards Canadian subjects. Frances Brooke supported her husband in his endeavors. Although they received some political support in their plan to introduce the Anglican Church, Murray and his successor Guy Carleton finally decided to convince the British government that neither Anglicanization nor Anglicanization would be an option in this colony. The Brookes then gave up their Canadian project and returned to London.

During her time in Canada, Frances Brooke's most important project was The History of Emily Montague , which appeared in 1769 and was dedicated to Guy Carleton. She worked on this novel for about three years. It is considered to be the "first Canadian novella". Using Julia Mandeville's letter style, the novel addresses the author's experiences of Québec and her observations of its society, politics, religion and natural environment. Most of the letters are from Colonel Ed Rivers, Emily Montague's lover, and from Arabella Fermor, her friend and confidante. Much of the action took place in Sillery, where the Brookes lived in a former Jesuit mission house on Mount Pleasant . Frances Brooke suggested that this Canadian content, which was more popular with men than women, was partly responsible for the poor sales. However, the novel received positive reviews and new editions were published in London in 1777, 1784 and 1790. In Ireland three editions were printed, a German translation published in 1769, two French translations in 1770, a third in 1809. The Dutch translation appeared in 1783 and the Swedish, as a translation from the French, in 1796. The work even became too in the late 18th century a kind of travel guide for visitors to Quebec City.

Later works

Brooke's rhythm of life in her later years included traveling frequently and living at different addresses in and around London. There she met a wide variety of people. She carefully monitored her son's education. She often lived apart from her husband, on the one hand the reasons lay in his duties as a pastor and her career in London, on the other hand she was angry that, in her opinion, he had spoiled her "projects". She complained about this in one of her letters to Richard Gifford. She translated two French works, one by Nicolas-Étienne Framery and one by Claude-François-Xavier Millot , in the early 1770s. Elements of the history of England from the invasion of the Romans to the reign of George II appeared in four volumes in 1771. During this work, she benefited from her stay in Canada. She also felt more confident after these trips and increasingly appeared as a critic. Her next work, The Excursion , was published in 1777. In this novel, she tells the story of Maria Villiers and her sister Louisa. The piece is offered to Garrick, who at first does not read it, but then takes on it. An Irish edition was published in 1777, two French translations in 1778 and 1819, and a German edition in 1778. This third novel was not as well known as the two previous ones, but it was the most autobiographical of the three.

However, her main interest in those years was theater. Between 1771 and 1772 she worked intensively on drafts for a comic opera . She received support here from Richard Gifford. She negotiated with George Colman , manager of the Covent Garden Theater , and with Garrick, who ran the Drury Lane Theater . She was promised a quick answer, but it came very late and her work was rejected. In May 1773 she bought the King's Theater on Haymarket together with James Brooke, Mary Ann Yates and their husband Richard Yates . They ran it until 1778 when they sold it to Thomas Harris and Richard Brinsley Sheridan.

Recognition as a playwright

Frances Brooke was late in gaining the dramatist recognition she had long sought. From January 31 to February 19, 1781, her tragedy The Siege of Sinope was produced ten times at the Theater Royal in Covent Garden . At the beginning of February of the same year a foreword was published by her. There was an Irish edition published in 1781. Both the production and the release received mixed reviews. Her next two productions were performed in front of theater audiences for many years. It was the comical operas Rosina and Marian .

Frances Brooke died in Sleaford on January 23, 1789. At first she was remembered mainly for Rosina . After her three novels were republished in the 20th century, The history of Lady Mandeville attracted feminist critics and her novel about Emily Montague became the first Canadian novel to be studied.


Judy Chicago dedicated an inscription to Frances Brooke on the triangular floor tiles of the Heritage Floor for her installation The Dinner Party . The porcelain tiles labeled with the name Frances Brooke are assigned to the place with the place setting for Emily Dickinson .

Web links

Commons : Frances Brooke  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e f g h Quoted from: Frances Brooke in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  2. ^ A b c Biography - MOORE, FRANCES - Volume IV (1771-1800) - Dictionary of Canadian Biography. In: Retrieved September 26, 2020 .
  3. ^ Brooklyn Museum: Frances Brooke. In: Retrieved September 26, 2020 .