1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Elizabeth Elstob

John Nichols, in Literary Anecdotes of the XVIII Century (1812-15) 4:128-29.



She was born in the parish of St. Nicholas, in Newcastle upon Tune, Sept. 29, 1683; so that she was ten years younger than her brother. Her mother, who was a great admirer of learning, especially in her own sex, observed the particular fondness which her daughter had for books, and omitted nothing that might tend to her improvement so long as she lived; but she was so unfortunate as to lose her mother when she was about eight years of age, and had just gone through her Accidence and Grammar. A stop was now put to her progress for a time, through a vulgar mistaken notion of her guardian, that one Tongue was enough for a woman. However, the force of natural inclination still carried her to improve her mind in the best manner she could; and, as her propensity was strong towards languages, she with much difficulty obtained leave to learn the French tongue. But her situation in this respect was happily much altered when she went to live with her brother, who, being impressed with more liberal sentiments concerning the education of women, very joyfully assisted and encouraged her in her studies for the whole time he lived. Under his eye, she translated and published an Essay on Glory, written in French by the celebrated Mademoiselle de Scudery. But what characterizes Mrs. Elstob most, she, as she intimates in her Dedication to the Saxon Homily, was the first English woman that had ever attempted that antient and obsolete language, and I suppose is also the last. But she was an excellent linguist in other respects, being not only mistress of her own and the Latin tongue, but also of seven other languages. And she owed all her skill in the learned tongues, except what may be ascribed to her own diligence and application, to her brother. She was withal a good Antiquary and Divine, as appears evidently from her works.