1855 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Elizabeth Elstob

Sarah Josepha Hale, Woman's Record; or, Sketches of all Distinguished Women (1852; 1855) 304.



ELIZABETH ELSTOB, sister of William Elstob, and famous for her skill in the Saxon language, was born in 1683. Her mother, to whom she owed the rudiments of her extraordinary education, dying when she was but eight years old, her guardians discouraged her progress in literature, as improper for her sex; and, after her brother's death, she met with so little patronage, that she retired to Evesham, in Worcestershire, where she with difficulty subsisted by keeping a small school.

Three letters of hers to the lord treasurer of Oxford are extant among the Harleian MSS., from which it appears that he obtained for her the queen's bounty towards printing the Saxon homilies; but, after the death of this queen, (Caroline, wife of George II.,) she was so low in her finances, as to be forced, though a mistress of nine languages, to become a governess. For this purpose she was taken into the family of the duchess-dowager of Portland, in 1739; and continued there till she died, May 30th, 1756.

The homily of "St. Gregory's Day," published by her brother, has her English translation, besides his Latin one. She appears to have written the preface too, in which she answers the objections made to women's learning, by producing "that glory of her sex," as she calls her, Mrs. Anna Maria a Shurman. In 1715 she published a "Saxon Grammar." Had her talents been kindly encouraged, she would, probably, have equalled Madame Dacier.