Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna

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Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna
Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna
Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna
Born (1790-10-01)1 October 1790
Norwich, Norfolk, England
Died 12 July 1846(1846-07-12) (aged 55)
Ramsgate, Kent, England
Pen name Charlotte Elizabeth
Occupation Writer (novelist)
Nationality English
Period 19th century
Genre evangelical Protestant literature,
Children's Literature

Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna (1 October 1790 – 12 July 1846) was a popular Victorian English writer and novelist who wrote as Charlotte Elizabeth. She was "a woman of strong mind, powerful feeling, and of no inconsiderable share of tact."[1] Her work focused on promoting women's rights (see her books The Wrongs of Women and Helen Fleetwood) and evangelical Protestantism, as seen in her book Protection; or, The Candle and the Dog: "Our greatest blessings come to us by prayer, and the studying of God's word".[2] "She was above all else an anti-Romanist, a most protesting Protestant."[1] She had temporary vision loss at the age of six, and she suffered permanent hearing loss at the age of ten, "due to medication she was taking for other ailments."[3] Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote of her memoir Personal Recollections (1841): "We know of no piece of autobiography in the English language which can compare with this in richness of feeling and description and power of exciting interest."[1]


She was the daughter of Michael Browne, rector of St. Giles's Church and minor canon of Norwich Cathedral, where she was born on 1 October 1790. In her early youth, she "displayed a very ardent temperament and lively imagination."[4] She was so eager to learn that she accepted an offer from her uncle to teach her the French language before she was six years old. During this time of learning, she strained her eyes so hard "that she was deprived of sight for some months." [4] In 1813 she married Captain George Phelan of the 60th regiment, and spent two years with him while he served with his regiment in Nova Scotia (1817–1819).[5] They then returned to Ireland, where Phelan owned a small estate near Kilkenny. The marriage was not a happy one, and they separated about 1824. Mrs Phelan subsequently resided with her brother, Captain John Browne, for two years at Clifton, where she made the acquaintance of Hannah More. "Tragically, John Murray Browne drowned in a boating accident whilst posted with his regiment in Mullingar, County Westmeath, Ireland, in 1829."[6] After the death of her brother, "she undertook the sole charge of the education and maintenance of his two sons".[4] She later moved to Sandhurst, and then to London. In 1837 Captain Phelan died in Dublin, and in 1841 Charlotte married Lewis Hippolytus Joseph Tonna. In early 1844, a cancerous mass appeared under Charlotte's left axilla, eventually causing "her death by attacking an artery and causing exhaustion from loss of blood."[4] She died at Ramsgate on 12 July 1846, and was buried there.

Writing career[edit]

Mrs. Tonna became a novel-writer after the death of her father because "a small annuity was all that [her] mother could depend on".[4] While in Ireland Mrs. Tonna began to write tracts for various religious societies. Her first essay in authorship was in aid of the objects of the Dublin Tract Society. Her tracts became popular because of the sheer simplicity; "if, on reading a manuscript to a child of five years old, [she] found there was a single sentence or word above his comprehension, it was instantly corrected to suit that lowly standard." [4] She was the subject of continued persecution, and because of claims made against her, "she was obliged to publish her works under her baptismal names of 'Charlotte Elizabeth'".[4] She was very hostile to the Catholic Church, and some of her publications are said to have been placed on the Index Expurgatorius. In 1837 she published an abridgment of Foxe's Book of Martyrs. She edited The Protestant Annual, 1840, and The Christian Lady's Magazine from 1836, and The Protestant Magazine from 1841 until her death, with "her writings being dictated when [she] was unable to hold the pen."[4] She also wrote poems, two of which, The Maiden City and No Surrender, were written specially for the Orange cause. Writing in 1899, O'Donoghue stated that these "are extremely vigorous and popular. They are quite the best Orange songs that have been written."[7]


  • Zadoc, the Outcast of Israel (London, 1825)
  • Perseverance: a Tale (London, 1826)
  • Rachel: a Tale (London, 1826)
  • Consistency: a Tale (London, 1826)
  • Osric: a Missionary Tale, and other Poems (Dublin, 1826?)
  • Izram: a Mexican Tale, and other Poems (London, 1826)
  • The System: a Tale of the West Indies (London, 1827)
  • The Rockite: an Irish Story (London, 1829)
  • The Museum (Dublin, 1832)
  • The Mole (Dublin, 1835)
  • Alice Benden, or the Bowed Shilling (London, 1838)
  • Letters from Ireland, 1837 (London, 1838)
  • Derriana
  • Deny (1833; 10th ed. 1847)
  • Chapters on Flowers (London, 1836)
  • Conformity: a Tale (London, 1841)
  • Helen Fleetwood (London, 1841)
  • Falsehood and Truth (Liverpool, 1841)
  • Personal Recollections (London, 1841)
  • Dangers and Duties (London, 1841)
  • Judah's Lion (London, 1843)
  • The Wrongs of Woman, in four parts (London, 1843-4)
  • The Church Visible in all Ages (London, 1844)
  • Judea Capta: an Historical Sketch of the Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans (London, 1845)
  • Works of Charlotte Elizabeth (with introduction by Mrs. H. B. Stowe, 2nd edit. New York, 1845)
  • Elizabeth, Charlotte; Kidder, Daniel P. (1846). Protection; or, the Candle and the Dog. New York: Lane & Tippett. p. 27. Retrieved 21 September 2011.
  • Bible Characteristics (London, 1851)
  • War with the Saints (London, 1852)
  • Short Stories for Children (Dublin, 1854)
  • Tales and Illustrations (Dublin, 1854)
  • Stories from the Bible (London, 1861)
  • Charlotte Elizabeth's Stories (collected, New York, 1868)
  • Kindness to Animals: or, The Sin of Cruelty Exposed and Rebuked (Philadelphia: American Sunday-School Union, 1845) (available online)
  • Little Oaths (New York: American Tract Society, 18--?)(available online)
  • Patty; or, Beware of Meddling(Sunday-School Union of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 18--?)(available online)
  • Richard and Rover (New York: Lane & Tippett for the Sunday-School Union of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1846)(available online)
  • The Bible The Best Book (New York: American Tract Society, 185-?)(available online)
  • The Burying-ground. (N.Y. American Tract Society, 185-?)
  • The Newfoundland fisherman: a true story (N.Y. American Tract Society, 18--?)
  • Personal Recollections. 1841 (London: R. B. Seeley & W. Burnside, 1841)
  • The Perils of the Nation: An Appeal to the Legislature, The Clergy, and the Higher and Middle Classes (London: Seeley, Burnside and Seeley, 1843)



  1. ^ a b c Acadiensis. 1901, p. 228
  2. ^ "Protection :: Chapbooks". Retrieved 2018-02-13.
  3. ^ "Shaping the Values of Youth: Sunday School Books in 19th Century America". Retrieved 2018-02-13.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "Obituary. - Mrs. Tonna (Charlotte Elizabeth)". The Gentleman's Magazine. Vol. XXVI. London: John Bowyer Nichols and Son. 1846. p. 433. Retrieved 2018-02-13.
  5. ^ George Phelan (1791–1837) was a friend of her brother. The couple were married on 15 May 1813. While in Halifax, he joined the 7th Battalion of the 60th Regiment of Foot. He was promoted to captain. From 1815 to 1816, Tonna's husband was with his regiment in Annapolis Royal, British North America. His unit then moved on to Fort Edward in Windsor, Nova Scotia, where he stayed until 1818. She writes obliquely of "adverse circumstances" and of having been through "many waters of affliction". In addition, her doctor wrote that she was "sufferings during a very unhappy marriage to one really deranged in mind'"
  6. ^ "Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna's Personal Recollections". Retrieved 2018-02-13.
  7. ^  O'Donoghue, David James (1885–1900). "Tonna, Charlotte Elizabeth". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co.



 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain"Tonna, Charlotte Elizabeth". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.

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