Katherine Thomson (writer)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Katherine Thomson (1797–1862) (née Byerley, also as Mrs A. T. Thomson, pseudonym Grace Wharton) was an English writer, known as a novelist and historian.


She was the seventh daughter of Thomas Byerley of Etruria, Staffordshire, a nephew by marriage and sometime partner and manager of the pottery works of Josiah Wedgwood. She married, in 1820, the physician Anthony Todd Thomson, as his second wife.[1] During their residence in London, for some of the time at Hinde Street, she and her husband assembled an artistic and literary circle, among their earlier friends being Campbell, Wilkie, Mackintosh, Jeffrey, and Lord Cockburn. Later, in Welbeck Street, they saw much of Thackeray, Browning, and also of Lord Lytton, who became a close friend.

After her husband's death in 1849 she lived abroad for some years. In 1860, she suffered the drowning of her son, John Cockburn Thomson.[2] She returned to London, and died at Dover on 17 December 1862.


At her husband's suggestion Thomson began biographical compilation, starting with a brief Life of Wolsey for the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, in 1824. She developed anecdotal biography, as used by Isaac D'Israeli, John Heneage Jesse, and Agnes Strickland. It gave her material for a series of historical novels, anticipating those of Emma Marshall.

Thomson's main historical and biographical compilations were:

  • Memoirs of the Court of Henry the Eighth, London, 1826, 2 vols.
  • Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Ralegh, 1830, (two American editions).
  • Memoirs of Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, and of the Court of Queen Anne, 1838, 2 vols.
  • Memoirs of the Jacobites of 1715 and 1745, 1845 and 1846, 3 vols. Together with notices of some minor actors, this contains lives of Mar, Derwentwater, Cameron of Lochiel, Nithisdale, Kenmure, Tullibardine, Rob Roy, Lovat, Lord George Murray, Flora Macdonald, and Kilmarnock.
  • Memoirs of Viscountess Sundon, Mistress of the Robes to Queen Caroline, including Letters from the most celebrated Persons of her Time, 1847, 2 vols.; 1850, 2 vols. This work was criticised for inaccuracies, in the Quarterly Review.
  • Recollections of Literary Characters and Celebrated Places, 1854, 2 vols., chapters of anecdotal topography which had originally appeared in Bentley's Miscellany and Fraser's Magazine, under the signature "A Middle-aged Man".
  • Life and Times of George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, 1860, 3 vols.
  • ‘Celebrated Friendships,’ 1861, 2 vols. This contains chapters on Evelyn and Boyle, Surrey and Wyatt, Marie-Antoinette and the Princesse de Lamballe, Digby and Vandyck, Sidney and Greville, Coleridge and Lamb, Fénelon and Mme. Guyon, Cowper and Mrs. Unwin, Garrick and Mrs. Clive, and Clarendon and Falkland.

Mrs. Thomson also wrote:

  • Constance (novel), 1833, 3 vols.
  • Rosabel, 1835.
  • Lady Annabella, 1837.
  • Anne Boleyn, 1842, several editions.
  • Widows and Widowers, 1842, several editions.
  • Ragland Castle, 1843.
  • White Mask, 1844.
  • The Chevalier, 1844 and 1857.
  • Tracey; or the Apparition, 1847.
  • Carew Ralegh, 1857.
  • Court Secrets, 1857, dealing with the story of Caspar Hauser.
  • Faults on Both Sides, 1858.

Under the pseudonym of Grace Wharton she was joint author with her son, John Cockburn Thomson, of

  • The Queens of Society, 1860, 2 vols., 3rd ed. 1867;
  • The Wits and Beaux of Society, 1860, 2 vols., 2nd ed. revised 1861; and
  • The Literature of Society, 1862, 2 vols.

The Byerley family were descended from Robert Byerley (1660–1714), a Member of Parliament; he married Mary, daughter of Philip Wharton and great-niece of Philip Wharton, 4th Baron Wharton. This relationship was the source of the pseudonyms taken by Katherine Thomson and her son.


Her marriage produced three sons, including Henry William Thomson, and five daughters.[1]



  1. ^ a b  "Thomson, Anthony Todd". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 
  2. ^ Appletons' annual cyclopaedia and register of important events of the year: 1862. New York: D. Appleton & Company. 1863. p. 694. 

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

External links[edit]