Mary Davys

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Mary Davys (1674–1732) was a novelist and playwright.

Life account[edit]

She was born in Ireland: little is known of her parents, but her own brief references, and a comment by Jonathan Swift, suggest that she grew up in conditions of poverty and obscurity. She married Peter Davys, master of the free school of St Patrick's, Dublin, and had two daughters both of whom seem to have died in infancy. Despite her lack of family connections she had a number of socially prominent friends, including Margraet Walker, daughter of Sir John Jeffreyson, judge of the Court of Common Pleas (Ireland). After being widowed she moved to London in 1700 in order to make a living.

She published The Amours of Alcippus and Lucippe, with a dedication to Margaret Walker, in 1704 but did not have a second publication until The Northern Heiress, a comedy critical of the marriage market. Initially produced in York in 1715, it debuted in London in 1716 at Lincoln's Inn Fields and she bought a coffeehouse in Cambridge with the proceeds and to support herself.

Davys is best known, however, for her novels: The Reform'd Coquet is a successful early example of the novel of education, and her Familiar Letters, an epistolary novel which satirised the upper classes, preceded those of Richardson. Her writing is often direct, even blunt: for example, the main character in The accomplish'd rake, a debauched womanizer, is presented without euphemism. She was attacked in The Grub-Street Journal in 1731 for being "bawdy" but she "replied with vigour."[1] She lived in Cambridge until her death after a period of ill health.



  • The Northern Heiress, or, The Humours of York (1715)
  • The Self-Rival (Works, 1725)


  • Amours of Alcipus and Lucippe (1704; revised as The Lady's Tale in 1725)
  • The Fugitive (1705; revised as The Merry Wanderer in 1725)
  • The Reform'd Coquet, or, Memoirs of Amoranda (1724)
  • Familiar letters betwixt a gentleman and lady (Works, 1725)
  • The accomplish'd rake, or, Modern fine gentleman (1727)
  • The Cousins


  • The Modern Poet (Works, 1725)


  1. ^ Blain et al. 272


  • Backscheider, Paula R.. “Davys, Mary (1674–1732).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. 16 November 2006.
  • "Davys, Mary." The Feminist Companion to Literature in English. Virginia Blain et al., eds. New Haven and London: Yale UP, 1990. 271-272.