1855 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Frances Brooke

Sarah Josepha Hale, Woman's Record; or, Sketches of all Distinguished Women (1852; 1855) 222-23.



FRANCES BROOKE, whose maiden name was Moore, was the daughter of an English clergyman, and the wife of the Rev. John Brooks, rector of Colny in Norfolk, of St. Augustine in the city of Norwich, and chaplain to the garrison of Quebec. She was as remarkable for her gentleness and suavity of manners as for her literary talents. Her husband died on the 21st of January, 1785, and she herself expired on the 26th of the same month, at Sleaford, England. where she had retired to the house of her son, who had a rectorship in that country. Her first literary performance was "The Old Maid," a periodical work, begun in November, 1755, and continued every Saturday until about the end of July. 1756. In the same year she published "Virginia," a tragedy, with odes, pastorals, and translations. In the preface to this publication she assigns as a reason for its appearance, ''that she was precluded from all hopes of ever seeing the tragedy brought upon the stage, by there having been two so lately on the same subject." Prefixed to this publication were proposals for printing by subscription a poetical translation, with notes, of "II Pastor Fido," a work which was probably never completed.

In 1768, she published a novel called "The History of Lady Julia Mandeville," concerning the plan of which there were various opinions, though there seems to have been but one of the execution. It was read with much avidity and approbation. In the same year she published "Letters from Juliet, Lady Catesby, to her Friend Lady Henrietta Campley, translated from the French." She soon afterwards went to Canada with her husband, who was chaplain to the garrison at Quebec; and there saw those romantic scenes, so admirably painted in her next work, entitled "Emily Montague," a novel in four volumes, written in 1769. The next year she published "Memoirs of the Marquis de St. Folaix," in four volumes. On her return to England, accident brought her acquainted with Mrs. Yates, and an intimacy was formed that lasted as long as that lady lived; and when she died, Mrs. Brooke published an eulogy to her memory in the "Gentleman's Magazine." If we are not mistaken, Mrs. Brooke had, with Mrs. Yates, some share in the opera-house. She certainly had some share of the libellous abuse which the management of that theatre at that time produced. Her first play, Virginia, was refused by Garrick. After several years she tried her fortune ones more at the theatre; but the tragedy she wrote had not the good fortune to please Mr. Garrick, whose rejection of it excited the authoress's resentment so much that she took a severe revenge on him, in a novel published in 1777, in two volumes, called "The Excursion." This invective she afterwards regretted and retracted. In 1771, she translated "Elements of the History of England, from the invasion of the Romans to the reign of George II., from the abbe Millot," in four volumes. In 1781, she wrote a tragedy called "The Siege of Sinope," which was acted at Covent Garden, but added little to her reputation; it wanted energy and originality. Her next and most popular piece was "Rosina," acted at Covent Garden in 1782. Few pieces have been equally successful. The simplicity of the story, the elegance of the language, and the excellence of the music, caused it to be admired for a long time. Her last work was "Marian," acted in 1788, at Covent Garden, with some success, but very much inferior to Rosina.