Felicia Skene

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Felicia Skene
Born Felicia Mary Frances Skene
Died 1899 (aged 77–78)

Felicia Mary Frances Skene (1821–1899) was a Scottish author, philanthropist and prison reformer in the Victorian era.

Skene used the pseudonym Erskine Moir and was a friend of Florence Nightingale (1820–1910).


She was the youngest daughter of James Skene of Rubislaw and his wife, Jane Forbes, daughter of Sir William Forbes, sixth baronet of Pitsligo. She was born on 93 May 1821 at Aix in Provence. As a child, she played with the children of the exiled king, Charles X, at Holyrood ; as a girl she was the guest of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe at the embassy at Constantinople; and later was the friend of, among others, Sir John Franklin, Pusey, Landor, and Aytoun. Her father was a great friend of Sir Walter Scott, and it is said that Miss Skene as a child used to sit on the great novelist's knee and tell him fairy tales. In 1838, the family moved to Greece on account of Mrs. Skene 's health. Skene built a villa near Athens, in which they lived for some time. They returned to England in 1845, and lived first at Leamington and afterwards at Oxford.[1]

Miss Skene was a very accomplished woman and devoted to good works. When, in 1854, cholera broke out at Oxford, she took part, under Sir Henry Acland, in organising a band of nurses. Some of them were sent afterwards to the Crimea, and during the war Miss Skene remained in constant correspondence with Miss Nightingale. She took much interest in rescue work in Oxford, and was one of the first 'lady visitors' appointed by the home office to visit the prison. Some of her experiences were told in a series of articles in Blackwood's Magazine, published in book form in 1889, and entitled Scenes from a Silent World.[1]

Her earliest published work was Isles of Greece, and other Poems, which appeared in 1843. A devotional work, The Divine Master, was published in 1852, memoirs of her cousin Alexander Penrose Forbes, bishop of Brechin, and Alexander Lycurgus, archbishop of the Cyclades, in 1876 and 1877 respectively. In 1866, she published anonymously a book called Hidden Depths. It was republished with her name and an introduction by Mr. W. Shepherd Allen in 1886. Though to all appearance a novel, the author states that it is not a work of fiction in the ordinary acceptation of the term, as she herself witnessed many of the scenes described. She was a constant contributor to the magazines, and edited the Churchman's Companion, 1862-80. She died at 34 St. Michael Street, Oxford, on 6 October 1899.[1]


There is a blue plaque for Felicia Skene, installed on 2 July 2002 by the Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board, located at 34 St Michael's Street, Oxford, England.

Selected publications[edit]

Skene's works include:

  • The Isles of Greece and Other Poems (1843)
  • The Lesters (1847)
  • Wayfaring Sketches (1847)
  • The Inheritance of Evil: Or, the Consequence of Marrying a Deceased Wife's Sister (1849)
  • The Tutor's Ward (1851) — in two volumes
  • The Divine Master (1852)
  • Penitentiaries and Reformatories (1865)
  • The Shadow of the Holy Week (1883)
  • Scenes from a Silent World: Or Prisons and their Inmates (1889)
  • A Test of the Truth (1897)


  1. ^ a b c Lee 1901.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainLee, Elizabeth (1901). "Skene, Felicia Mary Frances". In Sidney Lee. Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement​. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 

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