Amelia Edwards

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Amelia Edwards in America, 1890
Bust of Amelia Edwards, Petrie Museum, University College, London

Amelia Ann Blanford Edwards (7 June 1831 – 15 April 1892) 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 voyage up the Nile of 1873–1874. 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]

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, showing considerable promise as a writer at a young age. She published her first poem at the age of 7, 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.


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 their 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 run-away success that went to 15 editions. Edwards wrote several ghost stories, including the often anthologised "The Phantom Coach" (1864).[1][2]


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 bore her name for some time afterwards.[3]

Edwards wrote a vivid description of her Nile voyage, published in 1877 under the title of A Thousand Miles up the Nile.[4][5] 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 threat 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, 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 under the title Pharaohs, Fellahs, and Explorers.[6]

Death and legacy[edit]

After catching influenza Amelia Edwards died on 15 April 1892 at Weston-super-Mare. She had lived at Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol since 1864.[7][8] She 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. She was buried in St Mary's Church, Henbury, Bristol. Her grave is marked by an obelisk at the foot of which lies a stone ankh.[9]

In 2012 Amelia 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.[10] The opera opened with a Victorian "dig" among Egyptian tombs and the action unfolded as Amelia Edwards imagined the plot taking place based on her exploration of the site.[11] The libretto was based on a scenario devised by the Egyptologist Auguste Mariette, Edwards' contemporary.[12] Egyptologist and novelist Elizabeth Peters (Barbara Mertz) took the first name of her noted character Amelia Peabody from Amelia Edwards. .[13]



  • 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...[14]
  • 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.


  • 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.

History and Archæology[edit]

  • Pharaohs, Fellahs, and Explorers. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1891.
  • A Thousand Miles Up the Nile London: George Routledge and Sons, Limited, 1877.
  • 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.


  • 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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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. 
  2. ^ 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. 
  3. ^ Edwards, Amelia B.: A Thousand Miles Up the Nile. London, G. Routledge & Sons, 1891.
  4. ^ Edwards, Amelia A Thousand Miles up the Nile London: Longmans, 1877 (Second Edition)
  5. ^ [1] A Thousand Miles up the Nile (book)
  6. ^ Edwards, Amelia Pharaohs, Fellahs, and Explorers New York: Harper & Brothers, 1891 (online)
  7. ^ Matthew, H.C.G and Harrison, Brian, eds.(2004). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, pp. 908–909. Oxford University Press, New York. ISBN 0-19-861367-9.
  8. ^ Rees, Joan (1998). Amelia Edwards: Traveller, Novelist and Egyptologist, pp. 19 and 66. Rubicon Press, London. ISBN 0-948695-61-7.
  9. ^ Rees, Joan (1998). Amelia Edwards: Traveller, Novelist and Egyptologist, p. 69. Rubicon Press, London. ISBN 0-948695-61-7.
  10. ^ Hall, George (24 February 2012). "Aida – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 January 2014. 
  11. ^ Christiansen, Rupert (24 February 2012). "Aida, Royal Albert Hall, review". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 28 January 2014. 
  12. ^ Sadie, Stanley; Macy, Laura, eds. (2009). "Aida". The Grove Book of Operas. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-19-538711-7. 
  13. ^ Frequently Asked Questions about MPM [2]
  14. ^ " library listing". Retrieved 29 December 2013. 


  • Adams, Amanda: Ladies of the Field, Greystone Books, 2010.
  • Moon, Brenda E.: More usefully employed : Amelia B. Edwards, writer, traveller and campaigner for ancient Egypt. London : Egypt Exploration Society, 2006.
  • Rees, Joan: Amelia Edwards : traveller, novelist & Egyptologist. London : Rubicon Press, c1998.
  • Rees, Joan. Women on the Nile: Writings of Harriet Martineau, Florence Nightingale, and Amelia Edwards. Rubicon Press: 1995, 2008

External links[edit]