Lucy Aikin

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Lucy Aikin
Born(1781-11-06)6 November 1781
Warrington, England
Died29 January 1864(1864-01-29) (aged 82)
Hampstead, England
Pen nameMary Godolphin; I.F.M.; J.F.W.
Occupationauthor
LanguageEnglish
NationalityBritish
RelativesDr. 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, biographer and correspondent. She also published under the pseudonyms Mary Godolphin, I. F. M. and J. F. W. Her literature-minded family included her aunt Anna Laetitia Barbauld, a writer of poetry, essays and children's books.

Early life[edit]

Born at Warrington in 1781, Aikin was the fourth child of a physician, John Aikin (1747–1822), and his wife, Martha Jennings (died 1830).[1] Theirs was a literary family of prominent Unitarians. Lucy's father was also a historian, and her grandfather, likewise called John Aikin (1713–1780), was a Unitarian scholar and theological tutor, closely associated with Warrington Academy. Lucy's aunt was Anna Laetitia Barbauld, a prominent children's writer, her brother Arthur Aikin (1773–1854) was a chemist, mineralogist and scientific writer, and their brother Charles Rochemont (1775–1847) was adopted by Barbauld and became a doctor and chemist. Another brother, the architect Edmund Aikin (1780–1820), also wrote influential works about architecture.[1]

She lived with her parents in Yarmouth and Stoke Newington until the death of her father in 1822, when she moved to Hampstead, where apart from a short interval in Wimbledon, she spent the remainder of her life.

Educated largely 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,"[1] began writing for magazines at the age of seventeen, and at an early age assisted her father as an editor of his writings.[2]

Works[edit]

Aikin's works delved into the artistic, social, and literary sides of her period rather than its religious, military or parliamentary history.[1]

In 1810 appeared her first considerable work, Epistles on Women, Exemplifying their Character and Condition in Various Ages and Nations, with Miscellaneous Poems, and in 1814 her only work of fiction, entitled Lorimer, a Tale. Those were just earlier efforts, but her reputation was gained wholly by historical works published between the years 1818 and 1843: 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, 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 tea table at Hampton."[3]

Of her other memoirs, she herself wrote on completing 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.

Like Barbauld, 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). Under the pseudonym Mary Godolphin, Aikin is also attributed with 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 written "in Words of One Syllable".

Letters and translations[edit]

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 16 years (1826–1842) a graver correspondence with the Rev. Dr William Ellery Channing, an American Unitarian theologian in Boston, on religion, philosophy, politics, and literature.[3]

Aikin was also responsible for translating several French texts: Louis Francois Jauffret's The Travels of Rolando (publication around 1804), and Jean Gaspard Hess's The Life of Ulrich Zwingli (1812), on a leader of the Reformation in Switzerland.

Death and legacy[edit]

Lucy Aikin died in 1864 in 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, as was an edited version of her correspondence with Channing ten years later.

Selected works[edit]

  • 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[edit]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

Attribution[edit]

  • 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.

External links[edit]