Catherine Ann Dorset

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Catherine Ann Turner Dorset (1752 – 1834) was a British author of poems for children. She had a successful career as a writer, which surprised many at the time as she was a woman. Catherine Ann anonymously collaborated on several works with her sister, Charlotte Smith, which were Catherine Ann’s first publications.[1] Her more well known works were published after she took on writing as a career, following the death of her husband (Michael Dorset). Catherine Ann Turner Dorset's most well known works are: The Peacock 'At Home': A sequel to the Butterfly's Ball, The Lion’s Masquerade: A sequel to the Peacock ‘at Home’ , and Think before you Speak: Or the Three Wishes: a Tale[2].

Catherine Ann Turner Dorset
Stoke next Guildford, Surrey
Pen name"A Lady"
OccupationWriter, Poet
Genrechildren's books
Notable works"The Peacock “at Home”: A Sequel to the Butterfly’s Ball"

"The Lion’s Masquerade. A Sequel to the Peacock at Home"

"Think before You Speak: Or, the Three Wishes. A Tale"
SpouseCaptain Michael Dorset
ChildrenLucy Smith Dorset and Charles Ferguson Dorset


"The Gentleman's Magazine" November 1807 "The Peacock 'at Home'" Praise[3]

Catherine Ann(a) Turner was born in Stoke next Guildford, Surrey in 1752 and baptized on 17 January 1753. Her parents were Nicholas Turner (a poet) and Anna Towers Turner (married 1748). Her mother, Anna, passed away in 1752. Her death is thought to be the result of child birth. Catherine Ann had two siblings, a brother, Nicholas, and an elder sister, Charlotte, (Charlotte Smith after marriage). The three kids were raised by a maternal aunt, Lucy Towers (Lucy Towers Smith after marriage) following their mother's death, as their father left and traveled abroad for approximately the first five years of Catherine Ann's life.[4]

"The Gentleman's Magazine" - March 1808 - "The Peacock 'at Home'" - Criticism [5]

Nicholas Turner (her father) remarried in 1764 to Henrietta Meriton, some years after returning from abroad.[4] Catherine Ann married Captain Michael Dorset between 1767 and 1771 (accounts of marriage dates vary). Michael was a Captain in the army and the son of Reverend Michael Dorset. Catherine Ann and Michael had two children; a daughter, Lucy Smith Dorset (named after the maternal aunt that raised her), and a son, Charles Ferguson Dorset, who joined the army and also wrote some poetry.[6]

When Catherine Ann's father died, her brother was given the Bignor Park estate and Catherine was given an annuity. However, her brother failed to manage his finances and Catherine Ann was amongst his debtors. Catherine Ann took her own brother to court and her husband was awarded the estate. Catherine Ann and her sister lived there until Catherine Ann's daughter's marriage meant that the estate had to be sold. According to accounts of their lives, Catherine Ann supported both of her siblings in their times of need, however she also quarreled with them.[4]

The Three wishes by Catherine Ann Dorset
Suit our wishes to our station by Catherine Ann Dorset

Catherine Ann's sister, Charlotte, was more well known until 1807 when Catherine Ann published a story that both entertained and educated. It was titled The Peacock 'At Home': A sequel to the Butterfly's Ball. The Peacock 'at Home' gently satirized the social flaws of aristocracy and the upper middle class, as well as teaching children about birds in an enjoyable way.[2] The Peacock 'at Home' was originally anonymously published as "by A Lady". The poem was written in cheerful rhyming verses.The book was illustrated by the Irish painter William Mulready and was seen as a sequel to The Butterfly's Ball, and the Grasshopper's Feast by William Roscoe.[2] The Peacock 'At Home' was a sequel to William Roscoe's book, but some felt that it was better than the original.The Peacock 'At Home' sold 40,000 copies as part of John Harris's Cabinet series. There were discussions about her poems in The Gentleman's Magazine. Some applauded the piece, saying it was refreshing to see a sequel that actually surpassed the book that preceded it. Others, made comments on the fact that it was published by a woman and if she was looking for recognition, she should go to a tea party.[3][5] Nonetheless, the series was extended and Catherine Ann contributed Think before you Speak, or, The Three Wishes and maybe another title too. Think before you Speak, or, The Three Wishes was based on a translation of a traditional French poem.[6] Catherine Ann also wrote an account of the life of her sister that was included in Walter Scott's Miscellaneous Prose Works in 1827. Sources say that she spent her old age in Brighton and died in Chichester around 1834-1835.[4]


The Peacock At Home - by A Lady[7]

Major Works:

  • The Peacock “At Home”: A Sequel to the Butterfly’s Ball (London 1807) (The Peacock At Home - by A Lady teaches children in an enjoyable way about birds)
  • The Lion’s Masquerade. A Sequel to the Peacock at Home (London 1807)
  • The Lioness’s Rout; being a Sequel to the Butterfly’s Ball, the Grasshopper’s Feast, and the Peacock “At Home” (London 1808)
  • Think before You Speak: Or, the Three Wishes. A Tale (London 1809)
  • The Peacock At Home; and Other Poems (London 1809)
  • The Peacock Abroad; or Visits Returned (Greenwich 1812)
  • The Peacock, and Parrot, on their Tour to Discover the Author of “The Peacock at Home” (London 1816)

Other publications:

She first appeared in print when her sister, Charlotte Smith, inserted anonymously at least eleven poems of Catherine Ann’s into her own Conversations Introducing Poetry: Chiefly on Subjects of Natural History. For the Use of Children and Young Persons (1804)

pg 5 "The Peacock 'at Home'" by A Lady[8]

The poems include:

  • “The Mimosa”
  • “To the Lady-Bird”
  • “The Humble Bee”
  • “The Door-mouse Just Taken”
  • “The Squirrel”
  • “The Hot-House Rose”
  • “The Glow-Worm”
  • “The Captive Fly”
  • “The Nautilus”
  • “The Humming Bird”
  • “The Blighted Rose” retitled “The Cankered Rose”

All of these were reprinted by Catherine Ann Dorset under her own name in The Peacock “At Home”; and Other Poems (London, 1809) [2]

Family Tree[edit]

Catherine Ann Turner Dorset Family Tree


  1. ^ Darton, F. J. Harvey, and Brian. Alderson. Children's Books in England : Five Centuries of Social Life. British Library ; Oak Knoll Press, 1999.
  2. ^ a b c d Feldman, Paula R. British Women Poets of the Romantic Era : an Anthology. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997.
  3. ^ a b Urban, Sylvanus. “The Gentleman's Magazine. V.77 Pt.2 1807.” HathiTrust Digital Library,;view=1up;seq=270.
  4. ^ a b c d Collected Letters of Charlotte Smith, edited by Judith Phillips Stanton, Indiana University Press, 2003. ProQuest Ebook Central,
  5. ^ a b Urban, Sylvanus. “The Gentleman's Magazine. V.78 Pt.1 1808.” HathiTrust Digital Library,;view=1up;seq=10
  6. ^ a b Humphreys, Jennett. “Dorset [Née Turner], Catherine Ann (Bap. 1753, d. in or after 1816), Children's Writer | Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.” Edited by Katherine Turner, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 28 Sept. 2006,
  7. ^ “The Peacock 'at Home'.” HathiTrust Digital Library,;view=1up;seq=2.
  8. ^ “Project Gutenberg's The Peacock 'At Home:', by Catherine Ann Dorset.” Project Gutenberg, 1 Nov. 2007,

External links[edit]