Eliza Fletcher

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Eliza Fletcher
Born Eliza Dawson
15 January 1770
Oxton, Yorkshire
Died 5 February 1858
Nationality British

Eliza Fletcher, née Dawson (15 January 15, 1770 – 5 February 1858) was a British autobiographer and early travel writer.


Fletcher was born at Oxton, near Tadcaster in Yorkshire, where her father, named Dawson, descendant of a race of yeomen, was a land surveyor, and lived on a little family estate. Eliza was the only child of his marriage with the eldest daughter of William Hill. The mother died ten days after the birth. At eleven years old Eliza, a beautiful, intelligent girl, was sent to the Manor School at York. The mistress (Mrs. Forster) was ‘a very well-disposed, conscientious old gentlewoman,’ but incapable of proper superintendence. ‘Four volumes of the “Spectator” constituted the whole school library.’ Miss Dawson had a profound admiration for the poet William Mason, then a York celebrity, especially on account of his ‘Monody’ upon his wife's death, and was shocked at seeing him ‘a little fat old man of hard-favoured countenance,’ devoted to whist.

When Eliza was seventeen accident brought to her father's house a Scotch advocate, Archibald Fletcher, ‘of about forty-three, and of a grave, gentlemanlike, prepossessing appearance.’ They carried on a literary correspondence for a year, and after another meeting became engaged, though the father opposed the union, preferring a higher suitor, Lord Grantley. Miss Dawson got a friend, Dr. Kilvington, to tell Lord Grantley of her engagement. On 16 July 1791 the lovers were married in Tadcaster Church. Her father did not sanction the ceremony by his presence, but he could not withhold his blessing. For seven-and-thirty years, at the end of which time her husband died, ‘there was not a happier couple in the three kingdoms.’

Archibald Fletcher's steady adherence to his whig principles prevented his getting into practice, and they were often reduced to their last guinea. Her sympathy prevented her from ever regretting the sacrifice to principle. Afterwards success in life set steadily in with little interruption. Mrs. Fletcher died at Edinburgh on 5 February 1858.

Fletcher's Autobiography, of which a few copies had been printed for private circulation, 8vo, Carlisle, 1874, was published at Edinburgh the following year under the editorship of her surviving child, the widow of Sir John Richardson, the Arctic explorer. The ‘Life’ also contains a memoir by Mrs. Fletcher of her daughter Grace, and another of her son Archibald, by his widow. It is an attractive book about a most lovable woman, who seems, according to her portraits, at fifteen and eighty, to prove ‘that there is a beauty for every age.’


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