Selina Davenport

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Selina Davenport
Born Selina Granville Wheler[1]
27 June 1779
London, United Kingdom
Died 14 July 1859
Occupation Author

Selina Davenport (27 June 1779 – 14 July 1859) was an English novelist, briefly married to the miscellanist and biographer Richard Alfred Davenport. Her eleven published novels have been described recently as "effective if stereotyped".[2]

Early life[edit]

Selina Granville Wheler was born in London, England, on 27 July 1779, to Captain Charles Granville Wheler. At an early age, Selina met and later befriended Anna Maria and Jane Porter, who "both later to become successful writers in the early 1800s."[3] Of the two sisters, Selina was closer to Jane, and the two women remained friends until Porter died in 1850.[1]

Marital separation[edit]

On 6 September 1800, at the age of 21, Selina Wheler married Richard Alfred Davenport, a scholar and writer.[1] They had two daughters, Mary, born in 1803 in Chelsea, and Theodora, born in 1806 in Putney, but they separated acrimoniously around 1810 for what Selina called "sufficient reasons".[2] However, they never divorced and neither of them remarried.[3]

After the separation, Davenport claimed she had been left with next to nothing, while her husband stated that she left debts of £150 incurred in running a school:[2][4] She began writing as a means of support for both herself and her two daughters.[1]


Selina Davenport wrote a total of eleven novels. Most of her works were published by Minerva Press (later A. K. Newman & Company), known especially for sentimental and Gothic fiction.[2] At least two were translated into German.[5]

Sons of the Viscount, and the Daughters of the Earl (1813) has a typical plot of family enmity over a previous seduction when two sisters fall in love with two brothers. One pair achieve marital bliss, the other are divided by "giddiness" and eventual death. Italian Vengeance and English Forbearance (1828) has an avenging woman shoot her seducer dead in a duel.[2] A present-day literary historian has noted that it "use[s] Gothic tropes to sensationalize a domestic novel of manners."[6]


In addition to the eleven novels, Davenport supported her family financially in various business ventures, including running both a coffee house and a dance school.[3] She also received some financial help from Jane Porter and some moral support (a letter to the Royal Literary Fund) from Elizabeth Gaskell.[7] Her husband, on the other hand, sought to prevent her receiving payments from the fund.[2]

Davenport abandoned writing in 1834 and thereafter supported her widowed daughters by running a tiny shop in Knutsford, Cheshire, the town on which Gaskell based her famous novel Cranford.[2] Selina Davenport died aged 80 on 14 July 1859 and was buried at St John the Baptist's Church, Knutsford.[1]


  • The Sons of the Viscount. And the Daughters of the Earl: a Novel; Depicting Recent Scenes in Fashionable Life (1813)
  • The Hypocrite: or, The Modern Janus; a Novel (1814)
  • Donald Monteith, the Handsomest Man of the Age: a Novel (1815)
  • The Original of the Miniature: a Novel (1816)
  • Leap Year: or, Woman's Privilege; a Novel (1817)
  • An Angel's Form and a Devil's Heart: a Novel (1818)
  • "The Heiress of Glenalvon. A Tale", The Pocket Magazine of Classic and Polite Literature, Volume 1, p. 11 ff. (1818)
  • Preference: a Novel (1824)
  • Italian Vengeance and English Forbearance: a Romance (1828)
  • The Queen's Page: a Romance (1831)
  • The Unchanged: a Novel (1832)[8]
  • Personation: a Novel (1834)

Further reading[edit]

  • At least three of Selina Davenport's novels can be read online.[9]
  • J. A. V. Chapple and Arthur Pollard, eds., The Letters of Mrs. Gaskell, Manchester University Press [1966] 1997.


  1. ^ a b c d e Cruikshank, Jaclyn (2006). "Biography at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln". Archived from the original on 8 June 2011. Retrieved 30 September 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g The Feminist Companion to Literature in English, eds Virginia Blain, Patricia Clements and Isobel Grundy (London: Batsford, 1990), p. 267.
  3. ^ a b c Watkins, Louise (May 1998). "Corvey 'Adopt an Author' Biography of Selina Davenport". The Corvey Project at Sheffield Hallam University. Retrieved 2009-09-30. 
  4. ^ "After she opened a school at Greenwich, she continued to run in debt to the tune of £150; she decamped in the night, the moment she had sent my address to all the creditors. Yet this woman and her swindling father I kept from absolute starvation; her father was in jail, and she had not a friend in the world." Quoted in Nigel Cross: The Common Writer. Life in Nineteenth-Century Grub Street (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1988 [1985]), p. 173. Retrieved 7 February 2016.
  5. ^ WorldCat listing Retrieved 7 February 2016.
  6. ^ Toni Wein: British Identities, Heroic Nationalisms, and the Gothic Novel, 1764–1824 (Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), p. 234. Retrieved 7 February 2016.
  7. ^ Further Letters of Mrs Gaskell, ed. John Chapple and Alan Shelston (Manchester, UK:Manchester University Press, 2003, p. 109.
  8. ^ "Women Writers on the Web". Corvey. Retrieved 2009-10-01. 
  9. ^ Retrieved 7 February 2016.