Jane Porter

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For the Tarzan character, see Jane Porter (Tarzan).
Jane Porter
Jane Porter, from The Ladies' Monthly Museum
Born Jane Porter
(1776-01-17)January 17, 1776
Bailey in the city of Durham
Died May 24, 1850(1850-05-24) (aged 74)
Occupation Novelist
Nationality Scottish
Citizenship Kingdom of Great Britain
Period 1803-1840
Genre Historical Fiction
Subject Historical Documentary
Notable works The Scottish Chiefs

Jane Porter (17 January 1776 – 24 May 1850) was a Scottish historical novelist and dramatist.[1]


Tall and beautiful as she grew up, Jane Porter's grave air earned her the nickname La Penserosa (lit. "the pensive girl"). After her father's death, her family moved to Edinburgh, where Walter Scott was a regular visitor.

Some time afterwards the family moved to London, where the sisters became acquainted with a number of literary women: Elizabeth Inchbald, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, Hannah More, Elizabeth Hamilton, Elizabeth Benger and Mrs Champion de Crespigny. Jane and Anna Maria Porter, who both lived in London and Surrey later on, were sisters of Sir Robert Ker Porter, the historical painter.


Porter's 1803 work Thaddeus of Warsaw is one of the earliest examples of the historical novel and went through at least 84 editions,[2] including translation into French and German.[3] Based on eyewitness accounts from Polish refugees fleeing the failed revolts against the foreign occupation of Poland in the 1790s, the work was praised by Tadeusz Kościuszko, the "Thaddeus" of the title and a hero of the American Revolution.

The Scottish Chiefs (1810), a novel about William Wallace, was also a success (the French version was banned by Napoleon), and it has remained popular with Scottish children. The Pastor's Fireside (1815) was a story about the later Stuarts.[4]

Porter contributed to peroidicals and wrote the play Switzerland (1819), which seems to have been deliberately sabotaged by its lead Edmund Kean and closed after its first performance.[5] She is sometimes "credited" with the 1822 production Owen, Prince of Powys, which closed after only three performances,[4] but this was actually the work of Samson Penley.[5] Porter also wrote Tales Round a Winter Hearth (1821), Coming Out (1828), and The Field of Forty Footsteps (1828) with her sister, Anna Maria Porter.[1]

A romance, Sir Edward Seaward's Diary (1831), purporting to be a record of actual circumstances, and edited by Jane, was written by her brother, Dr. William Ogilvie Porter, as letters in the University of Durham Porter archives show.


  1. ^ a b Iain McCalman Ed. (2009) "Porter, Jane", An Oxford Companion to the Romantic Age, Oxford University Press
  2. ^ Looser, Devoney. Women Writers and Old Age in Great Britain, 1750–1850, pp. 157 ff. JHU Press, 2010. ISBN 978-1-4214-0022-8. Accessed 30 September 2013.
  3. ^ Laskowski, Maciej. "Jane Porter's Thaddeus of Warsaw as evidence of Polish–British relationships". Instytucie Filologii Angielskiej (Poznan), 2012. Accessed 26 September 2013.
  4. ^ a b The Oxford Companion to English Literature. Birch, Dinah (ed.) Oxford Univ. Press, 2011.
  5. ^ a b McMillan, Dorothy. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, "Porter, Jane." Oxford Univ. Press (Oxford), 2004.

External links[edit]

Jane Porter biographies[edit]