Amelia Edwards

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Amelia Edwards
Amelia B Edwards 1890 in Amerika.jpg
Amelia B Edwards in 1890
Born 7 June 1831
London, United Kingdom
Died 15 April 1892 (1892-04-16) (aged 60)
Weston-super-Mare, United Kingdom
Resting place St Mary's Church, Henbury

Amelia Ann Blanford Edwards (7 June 1831 – 15 April 1892), also known as Amelia B. Edwards,[1] was an English novelist, journalist, traveller and Egyptologist. Her most successful literary works included the ghost story "The Phantom Coach" (1864), the novels Barbara's History (1864) and Lord Brackenbury (1880), and the Egyptian travelogue A Thousand Miles up the Nile (1877), which described her 1873–1874 voyage. In 1882, she co-founded the Egypt Exploration Fund (now the Egypt Exploration Society) and became its joint Honorary Secretary. In 1889–1890, she toured the United States lecturing on Egyptian exploration.

Early life[edit]

Bust of Amelia Edwards, Petrie Museum, University College, London

Born in London to an Irish mother and a father who had been a British Army officer before becoming a banker, Edwards was educated at home by her mother and showed considerable promise as a writer at a young age. She published her first poem at age seven, her first story at age 12. Edwards thereafter proceeded to publish a variety of poetry, stories, and articles in a large number of magazines including Chamber's Journal, Household Words, and All the Year Round. She also wrote for the Saturday Review and the Morning Post.[2][3]


Edwards' first full-length novel was My Brother's Wife (1855). Her early novels were well received, but it was Barbara's History (1864), a novel of bigamy, that solidly established her reputation as a novelist. She spent considerable time and effort on her books' settings and backgrounds, estimating that it took her about two years to complete the researching and writing of each. This painstaking work paid off when her last novel, Lord Brackenbury (1880), emerged as a runaway success that went to 15 editions. Edwards wrote several ghost stories, including the often anthologised "The Phantom Coach" (1864).[4][5]


Upper part of a statuette of an Egyptian man and his wife. 18th Dynasty. From Egypt. From the Amelia Edwards Collection. Now housed in the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London
Philae (illustration from A Thousand Miles up the Nile)

In the winter of 1873–1874, accompanied by several friends, Edwards toured Egypt, discovering a fascination with the land and its cultures, both ancient and modern. Journeying southwards from Cairo in a hired dahabiyeh (manned houseboat), the companions visited Philae and ultimately reached Abu Simbel, where they remained for six weeks. During this last period, a member of Edwards' party, the English painter Andrew McCallum, discovered a previously unknown sanctuary that came to bear Edwards' name for some time afterwards.[6]

Edwards wrote a vivid description of her Nile voyage, titled A Thousand Miles up the Nile (1877).[7][8] Enhanced with her own hand-drawn illustrations, the travelogue became an immediate best-seller.

Edwards' travels in Egypt had made her aware of the increasing threats directed towards the ancient monuments by tourism and modern development. Determined to stem these threats by the force of public awareness and scientific endeavour, Edwards became a tireless public advocate for the research and preservation of the ancient monuments. In 1882, she co-founded the Egypt Exploration Fund (now the Egypt Exploration Society) with Reginald Stuart Poole, the curator of the Department of Coins and Medals at the British Museum. Edwards became joint Honorary Secretary of the Fund and served until her death.

Great Temple at Abu Simbel (from A Thousand Miles up the Nile)

With the aim of advancing the Fund's work, Edwards largely abandoned her other literary work to concentrate on Egyptology. In this field she contributed to the ninth edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica,[9] to the American supplement of that work, and to the Standard Dictionary. As part of her efforts Edwards embarked on an ambitious lecture tour of the United States in the period 1889–1890. The content of these lectures was later published as Pharaohs, Fellahs and Explorers.[10]

Death and legacy[edit]

Upper part, figure of an official of Amenhotep III, from a double statue. From Bubastis (Tell-Basta), Egypt. From the Amelia Edwards Collection. The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London

After catching influenza Edwards died on 15 April 1892 at Weston-super-Mare. She had lived at Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol since 1864.[11][12] She was buried in the churchyard of St Mary's Church, Henbury, Bristol, and her grave is marked by an obelisk, at whose foot lies a stone ankh. The grave is alongside those of her companion, Ellen Drew Braysher (9 April 1804 – 9 January 1892), with whom she had lived in Westbury-on-Trym, and Ellen's daughter, Sarah Harriet Braysher (1832–1864). In September 2016, Historic England designated the grave as Grade II listed,[13] celebrating it as a landmark in English LGBT history.[14]

Edwards bequeathed her collection of Egyptian antiquities and her library to University College London, together with a sum of £2,500 to found an Edwards Chair of Egyptology.[15]

In popular culture[edit]

  • In 2012, Edwards was portrayed as a (non-singing) character in Stephen Medcalf's production of Aida performed in the round at the Royal Albert Hall, London.[16] The opera opened with a Victorian "dig" among Egyptian tombs, and the action unfolded as Edwards imagined the plot taking place based on her exploration of the site.[17] The libretto was based on a scenario devised by the Egyptologist Auguste Mariette, Edwards' contemporary.[18]
  • Egyptologist and novelist Elizabeth Peters (Barbara Mertz) took the first name of her noted character Amelia Peabody from Amelia Edwards.[19]
  • In 2014, acclaimed new music ensemble, Alarm Will Sound, staged a music-theatre piece, I Was Here I Was I based on Amelia Edwards's A Thousand Miles Up the Nile at the Temple of Dendur in the Metropolitan Museum of Arts' Sackler Wing. The work was written and directed by Nigel Maister, with music composed by Kate Soper.[20]


History and archaeology[edit]

  • Pharaohs, Fellahs, and Explorers. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1891.
  • A Thousand Miles Up the Nile London: George Routledge and Sons, Limited, 1877 (first edition) and 1890 (second edition, ISBN 0-9819284-2-0)[21]
  • The Story of Cervantes
  • Outlines of English history : from the Roman conquest to the present time : with observations on the progress of art, science, and civilization, and questions adapted to each paragraph : for the use of schools c. 1857.


  • My Brother's Wife 1855.
  • The Young Marquis 1859.
  • Barbara's History 1864.
  • Debenham's Vow 1870.
  • The Days of My Youth 1873.
  • Lord Brackenbury 1880.
  • The Ladder of Life
  • Hand and Glove
  • Half a Million of Money
  • Miss Carew
  • Monsieur Maurice, and other stories 1876. Contains the stories ...[22]
  • Monsieur Maurice
  • An engineer's story
  • The cabaret of the break of day
  • The story of Ernst Christian Schoeffer
  • The new pass
  • A service of danger
  • A night on the borders of the black forest
  • The story of Salome
  • In the confessional
  • The tragedy in the Palazzo Bardell
  • The four fifteen express
  • Sister Johanna's story
  • All Saints' Eve
  • The phantom coach by Amelia B. Edwards ; adapted by I.M. Richardson, illustrated by Hal Ashmead. c. 1982.


  • Ballads. New York: Carleton,18--.
  • A poetry-book of elder poets, consisting of songs & sonnets, odes & lyrics, selected and arranged, with notes, from the works of the elder English poets, dating from the beginning of the fourteenth century to the middle of the eighteenth century. 1878.


  • Manual of Egyptian archaeology and guide to the study of antiquities in Egypt : for the use of students and travellers by Sir G. Maspero. Translated by Amelia B. Edwards.


  • Sights and Stories: A Holiday Tour Through Northern Belgium. 1862.
  • Untrodden Peaks and Unfrequented Valleys: A Midsummer Ramble in the Dolomites. London: Longman's, Green, and Co. 1873.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Author Profile". Goodreads. 
  2. ^ Bleiler, E. F. (1986). "Edwards, Amelia B.". In Sullivan, Jack. The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural. New York: Viking. p. 140. ISBN 0-670-80902-0. 
  3. ^ Benjamin F. Fisher IV (1985). "Amelia B. Edwards". In Bleiler, E. F. Supernatural Fiction Writers. New York: Scribner's. pp. 255–260. ISBN 0-684-17808-7. 
  4. ^ Bleiler, E. F. (1986). "Edwards, Amelia B.". In Sullivan, Jack. The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural. New York: Viking. p. 140. ISBN 0-670-80902-0. 
  5. ^ Benjamin F. Fisher IV (1985). "Amelia B. Edwards". In Bleiler, E. F. Supernatural Fiction Writers. New York: Scribner's. pp. 255–260. ISBN 0-684-17808-7. 
  6. ^ Edwards, Amelia B. (1891). A Thousand Miles Up the Nile. London: G. Routledge & Sons. 
  7. ^ Edwards, Amelia B. (1877). A Thousand Miles up the Nile (Second ed.). London: Longmans. 
  8. ^ Edwards, Amelia B. A Thousand Miles up the Nile. 
  9. ^ Edwards, Amelia B. (1884). "Mummy". Encyclopædia Britannica. XVII (9th ed.). 
  10. ^ Edwards, Amelia b. (1891). Pharaohs, Fellahs and Explorers (online ed.). New York: Harper & Brothers. 
  11. ^ Matthew, H.C.G & Harrison, Brian, eds. (2004). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 908–909. ISBN 0-19-861367-9. 
  12. ^ Rees, Joan (1998). Amelia Edwards: Traveller, Novelist and Egyptologist. London: Rubicon Press. pp. 19 and 66. ISBN 0-948695-61-7. 
  13. ^ Historic England. "Grave of Amelia Edwards (1439170)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 24 September 2016. 
  14. ^ "'Queer history' landmarks celebrated by Historic England". BBC News. 23 September 2016. Retrieved 24 September 2016. 
  15. ^ Rees, Joan (1998). Amelia Edwards: Traveller, Novelist and Egyptologist. London: Rubicon Press. p. 69. ISBN 0-948695-61-7. 
  16. ^ Hall, George (24 February 2012). "Aida – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 January 2014. 
  17. ^ Christiansen, Rupert (24 February 2012). "Aida, Royal Albert Hall, review". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 28 January 2014. 
  18. ^ Sadie, Stanley; Macy, Laura, eds. (2009). "Aida". The Grove Book of Operas. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-19-538711-7. 
  19. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions about MPM". Archived from the original on 3 July 2015. 
  20. ^ New York Times
  21. ^ Edwards, Amelia B. (1890). A Thousand Miles up the Nile. Norton Creek Press (Second ed.). Routledge & Sons. 
  22. ^ " library listing". Retrieved 29 December 2013. 


  • Adams, Amanda (2010). Ladies of the Field. Greystone Books. 
  • Moon, Brenda E. (2006). More usefully employed : Amelia B. Edwards, writer, traveller and campaigner for ancient Egypt. London: Egypt Exploration Society. 
  • Rees, Joan (1995). Women on the Nile: Writings of Harriet Martineau, Florence Nightingale, and Amelia Edwards. Rubicon Press. 
  • Rees, Joan (1998). Amelia Edwards: traveller, novelist & Egyptologist. London: Rubicon Press. 

External links[edit]