Anna Eliza Bray
|Anna Eliza Bray|
|Born||Anna Eliza Kempe
25 December 1790
|Died||21 January 1883(aged 92)|
|Notable work(s)||The Borders of the Tamar and Tavy (1836)|
Anna Eliza Bray (25 December 1790 – 21 January 1883) was a British novelist.
Anna Eliza Kempe was born in the parish of Newington, Surrey, on 25 Dec. 1790, to John Kempe, bullion porter in the Mint, and Ann, daughter of James Arrow of Westminster. Kempe planned to be an actress, and her public appearance at the Bath Theatre was duly announced for 27 May 1815. She caught a severe cold on her journey, which prevented her appearance, and the opportunity was lost. In February 1818, she married Charles Alfred Stothard, son of the distinguished royal academician, Thomas Stothard. Stothard was an artist devoted to illustrating the sculptured monuments of Great Britain. They journeyed to France, and her first work consisted of Letters written during a Tour in Normandy, Brittany, &c., in 1818.
Her husband died from a fall off a ladder in Beer Ferrers church, Devonshire, on 28 May 1821, while collecting materials for his work, The Monumental Effigies of Great Britain. She had one child with Stothard, a daughter, born posthumously 29 June 1821, who died 2 Feb. 1822.
Mrs. Stothard undertook to complete the book her husband left unfinished, with the aid of her brother, Alfred John Kempe, F.S.A. At his death, Stothard had reached the ninth number, and the entire volume—published in 1832—strained his widow's resources. She subsequently (1823) produced a memoir of her late husband. Many years later she communicated to the Gentleman's Magazine and to Blackwood's Magazine reminiscences of her father-in-law, Thomas Stothard, R.A., and these were afterwards (1851) expanded into a life of that admirable artist. At her death she left to the British Museum the original drawings of her husband's great work.
A year or two after Stothard died, Anna Eliza married Edward Atkyns Bray, the vicar of Tavistock. She then began writing novels, and from 1826 to 1874, produced at least a dozen. Some of these, such as The Talba, or the Moor of Portugal dealt with foreign life, but she based her most popular novels on the principal families (the Trelawneys of Trelawne, the Pomeroys, and the Courtenays of Walreddon) of the counties of Devon and Cornwall. They were historical novels, and proved so popular that they were issued in a set of ten volumes by Longmans in 1845-6, and were reprinted by Chapman & Hall as recently as 1884. Her second husband died in 1857, and Mrs. Bray then removed to London, where she selected and edited some of her late husband's poetry and sermons, and then returned to original work. Her last years were embittered by a report that during a visit to Bayeux in 1816, she stole a piece of that city's famous tapestry. However, her character was cleared by correspondence and leading articles that appeared in the Times. After a long life in literary labours, she died in London on 21 Jan. 1883. Her autobiography, to 1843, was published by her nephew, Mr. John A. Kempe, in 1884—but it is sketchy, and less than accurate. It depicts an accomplished and kindly woman, proud of her own creations, and enthusiastic in praise of the literary characters she knew.
Bray authored many works in addition to those already enumerated. The most entertaining and valuable was The Borders of the Tamar and the Tavy (1836, 3 vols.), which describe, in a series of letters to Southey, the traditions, legends and superstitions that surround the town of Tavistock, on the borders of the twin-streams of the River Tamar and the River Tavy. It was reviewed by Southey in the Quarterly Review. The remainder copies were issued with a new title-page by Mr. H. G. Bohn in 1838, and a new edition, compressed by Mrs. Bray herself into two volumes, appeared in 1879. With this may be read a series of tales for 'young people' on the romantic legends connected with Dartmoor and North Cornwall, entitled, A Peep at the Pixies, or Legends of the West (1854). The interest of her travels, The Mountains and Lakes of Switzerland, with Notes on the Route there and back (1841), may be said to have evaporated by this time, though their value at a time when the continent was less explored than it is now was generally recognised. When after a silence of some years she again in 1870 appeared as an author, she issued three compilations in French history, The Good St. Louis and his Times, The Revolt of the Protestants of the Cevennes, and Joan of Arc. All of them were pleasantly written, but lacked historical research that could make them of permanent value, particularly when compared to the Borders of the Tamar and the Tavy.
- Courtney, William Prideaux (1886). "Bray,Anna Eliza". In Leslie Stephen. Dictionary of National Biography 06. London: Smith, Elder & Co. "[Maclean's Trigg Minor, i. 78 ; Southey's Life and Correspondence; Mrs. Bray's Autobiography, 1884; Library Chronicle, i. 126-9.]"
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Cousin, John William (1910). "Bray, Anna Eliza". A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London: J. M. Dent & Sons. Wikisource
Further reading 
- Bray, A.E. (1823). Memoirs, including original journals, letters, papers, and antiquarian tracts of the late Charles Alfred Stothard, FSA. London.
- Kempe, J. A., ed. (1884). Autobiography of Anna Eliza Bray. London.
- Lindley, Phillip (2012). "The artistic practice, protracted publication and posthumous completion of Charles Alfred Stothard's Monumental Effigies of Great Britain". Antiquaries Journal 92: 385–426.
- Low, Dennis (2006). The Literary Protégées of the Lake Poets. Aldershot: Ashgate.
- Schneller, Beverly E. (2004). "Bray [née Kempe; other married name Stothard], Anna Eliza (1790–1883)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/3291. (subscription required)