6 November 1781|
29 January 1864 (aged 82)|
|Pen name||Mary Godolphin; I.F.M.; J.F.W.|
|Relatives||Dr. John Aikin, John Aikin, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, Charles Rochemont, Anna Letitia Le Breton|
Lucy Aikin (6 November 1781 – 29 January 1864) was an English historical writer. She also published under the pseudonyms Mary Godolphin, I.F.M. and J.F.W.
Born at Warrington in 1781, Aikin resided with her parents at Yarmouth and Stoke Newington till the death of her father in 1822, when she removed to Hampstead, where, with the exception of a short interval at Wimbledon, she spent the remainder of her life. Early life, she was a diligent student of French, Italian, and Latin, and at the age of seventeen, began to contribute articles to magazines and reviews. In 1810 appeared her first considerable work, Epistles on Women, and in 1814, she wrote her only work of fiction, entitled Lorimer, a Tale. Those were her earlier efforts, but her reputation was gained entirely by her historical work published between the years 1818 and 1843, namely, Memoirs of the Court of Queen Elizabeth(1818); Memoirs of the Court of James I. (1822); Memoirs of the Court of Charles I. (1833); and the Life of Addison (1843). The last of these books, which contained many letters of Addison never before published, was the subject of an essay by Macaulay, who, while praising Aikin's other works, and especially her Memoirs of the Court of James I. observed that she was "far more at home among the ruffs and peaked beards of Theobalds than among the steenkirks and flowing periwigs which surrounded Queen Anne's teatable at Hampton".
Of her other memoirs, she herself wrote, on the completion of her Charles I: "I am resolved against proceeding farther with English sovereigns. Charles II is no theme for me: it would make me condemn my species." aikin also wrote a life of her father, and of her aunt, Mrs. Barbauld, and many minor pieces. Aikin's conversational powers were remarkable, and she was a graceful and graphic letter writer. Her letters to her relatives and intimate friends showed her relish for society, and were full of wit and lively anecdotes of distinguished literary persons. She maintained for almost sixteen years (1826 to 1842) a graver correspondence with the Rev. Dr. Channing, of Boston, on religion, philosophy, politics, and literature.
Family and education
Lucy Aikin was born at Warrington, England, into a distinguished literary family of prominent Unitarians. They were also a family of writers, the most well known of whom was her paternal aunt, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, a woman of letters who wrote poetry and essays as well as early children's literature. Lucy's father, Dr. John Aikin, was a medical doctor, historian, and author. Her grandfather, also called John Aikin (1713–1780), was a Unitarian scholar and theological tutor, closely associated with Warrington Academy. Lucy's brother was Arthur Aikin (1773–1854), chemist, mineralogist and scientific writer; their brother Charles Rochemont (1775–1847) was adopted by their famous aunt and brought up as their cousin; he became a doctor and chemist.
Lucy was educated by her father and her aunt, an early critic of the education system. She "read widely in English, French, Italian, and Latin literature and history", and began writing for magazines at the age of seventeen, and at an early age assisted her father as an editor in his writings as well.
Aikin was interested in early education, and as such published several works to assist young readers: Poetry for Children: Consisting of Short Pieces to be Committed to Memory (1801), Juvenile Correspondence or Letters, Designed as Examples of the Epistolary Style, for Children of Both Sexes (1811), An English Lesson Book, for the Junior Classes (1828), and The Acts of Life: of Providing Food, of Providing Clothing, of Providing Shelter (1858).
Aikin also was responsible for translating the French texts: Louis Francois Jauffret’s The Travels of Rolando (publication appears to be around 1804), and Jean Gaspard Hess’s The Life of Ulrich Zwingli (1812), a life of the leader of the Reformation in Switzerland. She also was responsible for two creative works: Epistles on Women, Exemplifying their Character and Condition in Various Ages and Nations, with Miscellaneous Poems (1810), and her only work of fiction, Lorimer, a Tale (1814). She also was well-remembered for her biographical works: Memoir of John Aikin, MD (1823), The Works of Anna Laetita Barbauld (1825), The Life of Anne Boleyn (1827), and The Life of Joseph Addison (1843).
However, as memoirs and obituaries are quick to point out, she was probably most famous for her historical works: Memoirs of the Court of Queen Elizabeth (1818), Memoirs of the Court of James I (1822), and Memoirs of the Court of Charles I (1833).
Under the pseudonym Mary Godolphin, Aikin is also attributed for producing versions of Pilgrim's Progress, Robinson Crusoe, Swiss Family Robinson, Aesop's Fables, Evenings at Home (by her father and aunt), and Sandford and Merton, "in Words of One Syllable".
She was remarkable for her conversational powers, and was also an admirable letter-writer. In religion, Aikin was, like the other members of her family, a Unitarian. Aikin was also a whig, with a generous love of liberty wherever she found it under any conditions.
Death and legacy
She died in 1864, at Hampstead, then just north of London, where she had lived for forty years.
Her niece Anna Letitia Le Breton carried on her literary legacy after her death. Aikin's Memoirs, Miscellanies, and Letters were published in 1864, and an edited version of her correspondence with Dr William Ellery Channing, the American Unitarian theologian, followed ten years later.
- 1801: Poetry for Children: Consisting of Short Pieces to be Committed to Memory
- 1804: Louis Francois Jauffret’s The Travels of Rolando (translation from French)
- 1810: Epistles on Women, Exemplifying their Character and Condition in Various Ages and Nations, with Miscellaneous Poems
- 1811: Juvenile Correspondence or Letters, Designed as Examples of the Epistolary Style, for Children of Both Sexes
- 1812: Jean Gaspard Hess’s The Life of Ulrich Zwingli (translation from French)
- 1814: Lorimer, a Tale
- 1818: Memoirs of the Court of Queen Elizabeth, published in several later editions
- 1822: Memoirs of the Court of James I
- 1823: Memoir of John Aikin, MD
- 1825: The Works of Anna Laetita Barbauld
- 1827: The Life of Anne Boleyn
- 1828: An English Lesson Book, for the Junior Classes
- 1833: Memoirs of the Court of Charles I
- 1843: The Life of Joseph Addison
- 1858: The Acts of Life: of Providing Food, of Providing Clothing, of Providing Shelter
- 1858: Holiday Stories for Young Readers
Works attributed to her as Mary Godolphin
- 1867: Robinson Crusoe: In Words of One Syllable
- 1868: Sandford and Merton: In Words of One Syllable
- 1868: An Evening at Home: In Words of One Syllable
- 1869: Aesop's Fables: In Words of One Syllable
- 1869: The Pilgrim's Progress: In Words of One Syllable
- 1869: The Swiss Family Robinson: In Words of One Syllable
- 1870: The One Syllable Sunday Book
- See a Memoir of John Aikin, with selections of his miscellaneous pieces (1823); and the Memoirs, Miscellanies and Letters of Lucy Aikin (1864), including her correspondence (1826–1842) with William Ellery Channing, edited by P. H. Le Breton.
- Turzynski, Linda J. "Lucy Aikin." Dictionary of Literary Biography: British Children's Writers, 1800–1880. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Inc, 1996.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Cousin, John William (1910). A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London: J. M. Dent & Sons. Wikisource
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Morley, Henry; Edmunds, Edward William (1912). A First Sketch of English Literature (Public domain ed.). Cassell, Limited.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Stephen, Sir Leslie; Lee, Sir Sidney (1885). Dictionary of National Biography. 1 (Public domain ed.). Smith, Elder, & Company.
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