Jane Collier (1714 – March 1755) was an English novelist most famous for her book An Essay on the Art of Ingeniously Tormenting (1753). She also collaborated with Sarah Fielding on her only other surviving work The Cry (1754).
During her life, she met and worked with many famous writers of her day. In particular, Samuel Richardson and Henry Fielding both had a particular interest in her intelligence and in her writing ability.
Collier was baptized on 16 January 1715 in Wiltshire, the daughter of philosopher and clergyman Arthur Collier, and Margaret Johnson. She had two brothers and one sister. In 1716, their family were forced to move into a less expensive residence in Salisbury to pay debts. It was here that her brother Arthur, named after their father, studied law and educated his sisters, along with her childhood friend Sarah Fielding, in Greek and Latin language and literature; his manner of education was to prepare the girls to become governesses.
In 1732, her father died and Jane (17), along with her sister Margaret (15), were left without anyone to provide for them. In 1748, the sisters moved in with their brother Arthur who was living in the Doctors' Commons. During this time, Arthur "quarrelled" with Henry, and it is possible that a split formed between the siblings. A year after, in 1749, her mother died. Soon after, the living arrangements dissolved, and Margaret became the governess to Henry Fielding's daughters and Jane with Samuel Richardson. Richardson was impressed by Collier's education, and wrote to Lady Bradshaigh that Jane was proof "that women may be trusted with Latin and even Greek, and yet not think themselves above their domestic duties."
Collier never married, possibly because she could not offer a sufficient dowry, or possibly because, like Sarah Fielding, she hoped to establish an independent living through her writing. In 1748, Richardson was using Collier as a go between with Sarah Fielding in order to help the two write. In 1753, she wrote The Art of Ingeniously Tormenting with the help of Sarah Fielding and possibly James Harris or Samuel Richardson. Afterwards, it was Richardson who printed the work. Her final book, written with Sarah Fielding, was The Cry, published in 1754.
She died in London before the end of March 1755, just a year after the publication of The Cry (the exact date is not known). After her death, Richardson wrote to Sarah Fielding: "Don't you miss our dear Miss Jenny Collier more and more?-I do." Before she died, she planned a sequel to The Cry, describing it as "A book called The Laugh on the same plan as The Cry". Richardson urged Fielding to revise The Cry just two years later.
Collier's The Art of Ingeniously Tormenting has been described as the "best-known generic satire written in the 18th century by a woman." She is one of the many female 18th-century authors (including Frances Burney, Sarah Fielding, Sarah Scott, and Charlotte Turner Smith) who experimented with "alternative models for relationships, for different ways of regarding others and even for ameliorating society."
As a sign of his favor for Collier's style, satiric humor, and classical learning, Henry Fielding wrote in the beginning of an edition of Horace:
- To Miss Jane Collyer,
- This Edition of the best
- of all the Roman Poets,
- as a Memorial (however poor)
- of the highest Esteem for
- an Understanding more than
- Female, mixed with virtues almost
- more than human, gives, offers up
- and dedicates her Sincere Friend
- Henry Fielding
List of works
- An Essay on the Art of Ingeniously Tormenting (1753). A social satire that was originally published anonymously and sold well, with ten editions being published between 1753 and 1811.
- The Cry: A New Dramatic Fable (1754), by Collier and Sarah Fielding. A complex work describing the struggle of its heroines against the 'spiteful and malicious tongues' of an unprincipled society.
- Orlando Project: Jane Collier
- Collier p. xiii
- Rizzo p. 45
- Sabor p. 151
- Richardson Vol. 6 p. 79
- Collier p. xiv
- Letter from Collier to Richardson 4 October 1748
- Sabor p. 150
- Rizzo p. 46
- Richardson Vol. 2 p. 104
- Collier p. xv
- Rizzo "Renegotiating" p. 59
- Rizzo p. 24
- Battesin pp. 392-393
- Battesin p. 392
- Battesin, Martin and Battesin, Ruthe. Henry Fielding: A Life. London: Routledge, 1989.
- Collier, Jane. An Essay on the Art of Ingeniously Tormenting. Ed. Katherine Craik. Oxford: Oxford World's Classics, 2006. 111 pp.
- Richardson, Samuel. Correspondence of Samuel Richardson. (6 Vols) ed. Anne Barbauld, London: Richard Philips, 1804.
- Rizzo, Betty. Companions Without Vows: Relationships Among Eighteenth-Century British Women. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1994. 439 pp.
- ----. "Renegotiating the Gothic" in Revising Women: Eighteenth-Century Women's Fiction and Social Engagement edited by Paula Backscheider, 58–103. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002. 273 pp.
- Sabor, Peter (2004), "Richardson, Henry Fielding, and Sarah Fielding", in Keymer, Thomas; Mee, Jon, The Cambridge companion to English literature from 1740 to 1830, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 139–156, ISBN 978-0-521-80974-0