1887 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Helen Maria Williams

P. W. Clayden, in The Early Life of Samuel Rogers (1887) 76-78.



Miss Helen Maria Williams to whom Dr. Kippis had introduced him, was at that time living in London with her mother and sisters. She was a year older than Rogers and had already attained considerable success and reputation as an authoress. At eighteen she had become known as a poetess, and at twenty had published a novel entitled "Edwin and Eltruda," written in the sentimental fashion of the time; and two years later she had written a similar tale entitled "Julie." Rogers spoke of her in after years as a very fascinating person, though not handsome, and he became at this period of his life very intimate with her. She was a woman of much conversational power, and had the charm of sympathy and the art of bringing people together. She was full of admiration for the French Revolution, and in 1791 the family went to France with the intention of settling at Orleans. They, however, soon removed to Paris, where Rogers afterwards visited her. She was a warm adherent of the Girondist party, and shared their fall and imprisonment, and, but for an oversight, would have been carried with their leaders to the guillotine. She was liberated after the fall of Robespierre, and became in later years an admirer of Napoleon. She translated the twenty-nine volumes of Humboldt's "Personal Narrative" of his Travels into English, and wrote several works on France which were a good deal more read. She continued to live in Paris till her death in 1827. Meanwhile her sister Cecilia had married a Frenchman — M. Coquerel — and her son, Athanase Coquerel, became the celebrated Liberal Protestant preacher of the Oratoire, and representative of Paris after the Revolution of 1848. Cecilia's grandson, Athanase Coquerel the younger, was, till his too early death, the genial and gentle, yet high-spirited and vigorous leader of the Liberal section of the French Protestant Church.