1855 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Hester Mulso Chapone

Sarah Josepha Hale, Woman's Record; or, Sketches of all Distinguished Women (1852; 1855) 255-56.



HESTER CHAPONE was the daughter of a Mr. Mulso, of Twywell in Northamptonshire, and was born at that place in 1727. When only nine years old, she is said to have written a romance. Her mother, who seems to have been jealous of her daughter's talents, endeavoured to obstruct her studies. Hester Mulso, nevertheless, succeeded in making herself mistress of Italian and French. The story of "Fidelia" in the Adventurer, an "Ode to Peace," and some verses prefixed to her friend Miss Carter's Epictetus, were among her earliest printed efforts. In 1760 she married Mr. Chapone, who died in less than ten months afterwards. In 1770 she accompanied Mrs. Montague on a tour in Scotland; in 1773 she published her "Letters on the Improvement of the Mind," and in 1775 her "Miscellanies in Prose and Verse." After having lived tranquilly for many years, in the society of her devoted friends, her latter days were clouded by the loss of those friends and nearly all her relations; she was also a sufferer from impaired intellect and bodily debility. She died at Hadley, near Barnet, December 25th, 1801. Her verses are elegant, and her prose writings pure in style, and fraught with good sense and sound morality. With neither beauty, rank, nor fortune, this excellent lady, nevertheless, secured to herself the love and esteem of all with who. she became acquainted, and also the general admiration of those who read her works. Mrs. Elwood thus closes an interesting tribute to the memory of Mrs. Chapone: — "The solitary widow, living at one time in obscure and humble lodgings, was an object of interest even to royalty itself; and from her friends and connexions she constantly met with the disinterested affection and courteous attention due to her merits. By application and exertion in early life, she improved the abilities bestowed upon her by Providence, and she had the satisfaction of gaining for herself, through their influence, a respectable station among the pious and moral writers of England, and of transmitting to posterity a standard work on female education. Although more than sixty years have elapsed since this work was first published, its advice does not even yet appear antiquated, and is as well calculated to improve the rising generation, as it was to instruct the youth of their grandmothers."

Of the selections we make, the first three are from the "Miscellanies" of Mrs. Chapone, the last from her "Letters on the Improvement of the Mind."