Laetitia Pilkington

Laetitia Pilkington

Laetitia Pilkington (born Laetitia van Lewen) ("c." 1709 - July 29, 1750) was a celebrated Anglo-Irish poet and important source of information on the early 18th century. Her "Memoirs" are the source of much of what is known of the personalities and habits of Jonathan Swift and others.

Laetitia was born of two distinguished families. Her father was a physician and obstetrician, eventually the president of the College of Physicians for Ireland, and her mother was the niece of Sir John Meade. She was born either in Cork, where her parents lived at their marriage, or Dublin, where they moved by 1711. She married Matthew Pilkington in 1725, a rising priest in the Church of Ireland, and the couple were introduced to Jonathan Swift at St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin in 1725. Swift enjoyed their company immensely, and he sought to benefit them in 1730 with the monies from a "Miscellany" of Irish wit that was never published. At that point, Swift already noted the literary skill of both Pilkingtons, calling them "a little young poetical parson, who has a littler young poetical wife" (Elias 322). Swift continued to try to help the Pilkingtons, and he got Matthew a position as chaplain to the Lord Mayor of London for 1732-1733.

Unfortunately, the assignment to London was a turning point for the couple. When Laetitia visited in 1733, she found her husband in love with a Drury Lane Theatre actress and involved in numerous political schemes. Matthew sent her to spend time, instead, with James Worsdale, a painter and rake. Her correspondence shows that she was introduced to the Grub Street hacks who made up the political and fashionable journalistic literary world, and she noted that Worsdale employed a number of worthy wits to furnish him with poetry that he could claim, including Henry Carey. In 1734, Matthew was arrested for his politically maladroit actions and sent back to Dublin. Three years later, it was Laetitia's turn to be unfaithful. Matthew found her alone in her bedroom with a young surgeon, Robert Adair (who would later be surgeon general of England). The two divorced in great bitterness, and the divorce cost Laetitia money as well as the friendship of Jonathan Swift.

She began to write and sell her productions at this juncture. She sold Worsdale poetry that he could claim for himself. Also in 1737, she wrote a feminist prologue for Worsdale's "A Cure for a Scold" as well as a performed but unpublished opera farce called "No Death but Marriage". To escape her suitors and fame, she moved to London and lived under the name of "Mrs. Meade" in 1739.

In London, Colley Cibber, the old and wealthy poet laureate, and Samuel Richardson the publisher and, later, novelist, began an acquaintance with her. Cibber advised her on how to make money off the press, as he had previously done with his "Apology for the Life of Colley Cibber, Comedian". She began to sell verse to Cibber's friends to pass off as their own, and she attempted to set up a print shop and bookseller's in St. James's. In 1742, she was arrested for a two pound debt and imprisoned in the Marshalsea gaol. She was aided by Richardson.

In 1743, she began seeking, on Cibber's advice, subscribers for her "Memoirs." Samuel Richardson, who had been a benefactor of hers and who had consulted with her on "Clarissa," would not publish the work. Further, no other London publisher would accept the work, and Matthew Pilkington worked hard to ensure that the "Memoirs" would find no home. Indeed, most of the book sellers and publishers, as well as many of the notables of the day, were afraid of their publication and afraid of having their private foibles exposed to the public. Therefore, Laetitia went back to Dublin in May of 1747 and began the publication of the "Memoirs." The first two volumes appeared in 1748, and a third volume was unfinished at her death, although her son, John Carteret Pilkington, had it published in 1754. She died on July 29, 1750, most likely of a bleeding ulcer, and was buried in Dublin.

The "Memoirs" are virtually the sole source of Laetitia Pilkington's fame, but this is partly because she included nearly all of her published works in the "Memoirs." Thus, the three volumes of the "Memoirs" are also her Collected Works. Additionally, they provide terrific insight into Jonathan Swift, in particular, who is revealed as a tremendous reverse hypocrite (always pretending to gruffness but actually quite pious and tender hearted). However, personal, physical, and conversational details emerge about Colley Cibber, Samuel Richardson, Charles Churchill, John Ligonier, Edmund Curll, and even the young William Blackstone.

References

*Clarke, Norma. "Queen of the Wits: A Life of Laetitia Pilkington" (Faber and Faber, 2008), ISBN 0571224288. (Reviewed by Helen Deutsch in LRB, 17 July 2008: [http://www.lrb.co.uk/v30/n14/deut01_.html review] , [http://groups.yahoo.com/group/WomenwritersThroughTheAges/message/20223 transcription] .)
*Elias, A. C., Jr. "Laetitia Pilkington," in Matthew, H.C.G. and Brian Harrison, eds. "The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography." vol. 44, 321-323. London: OUP, 2004.


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Нужно сделать НИР?

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Pilkington (surname) — Pilkington is a surname, and may refer to: Sir Alastair Pilkington (1920 1995), British industrialist Anthony Pilkington, an association football player for Norwich City F.C. Brian Pilkington (footballer), English footballer Brian Pilkington… …   Wikipedia

  • Pilkington, Matthew —    Matthew (1701 1774) and Laetitia (1712 1750)    Matthew, a watchmaker son, was born at Ballyboy in County Offaly, Ireland, graduated B.A. from Trinity College, Dublin, in 1722, then was ordained in the established church. An impecunious curate …   British and Irish poets

  • Pilkington, Laetitia —    See Pilkington, Matthew …   British and Irish poets

  • Matthew Pilkington — (1701 1774) was the author of a standard text on painters, what would become known as Pilkington s Dictionary. Biography Pilkington was born in 1701 at Ballyboy, King s County, Ireland, wrote poetry, studied to be a minister at Trinity College,… …   Wikipedia

  • James Worsdale — ( c. 1692 June 10, 1767) was an Irish and English portrait painter, actor, literary fraud, and libertine whose lively conversation, wittiness, and boldness allowed him to move among the highest circles of literary life. His skills as a painter… …   Wikipedia

  • Grierson, Constantia — (?1706 1733)    Irish poet whose name may have been Crawley before she married George Grierson, a printer for the government. She came from a poor family from County Kilkenny and went on to study midwifery under Dr. Van Lewen (see Pilkington,… …   British and Irish poets

  • List of women novelists before Jane Austen — Dale Spender laid the groundwork for this list in her classic Mothers of the Novel: 100 good women writers before Jane Austen (1986) (names on Spender s original list are indicated with an asterisk [*] ). The Novelists * Penelope Aubin* * Jane… …   Wikipedia

  • List of early-modern women poets (UK) — This is an alphabetical list of female poets who were active in the United Kingdom before approximately 1800. (NB. Poetry is the focus of this list, though many of these writers worked in more than one genre). A C* Eliza Acton (1799 1859) * Jean… …   Wikipedia

  • William Henry Smyth — (January 21, 1788 ndash; September 9, 1865) was an English sailor and astronomer. He was the father of Charles Piazzi Smyth, Sir Warington Wilkinson Smyth and General Sir Henry Augustus Smyth. Of his daughters, Henrietta Grace Smyth married… …   Wikipedia

  • 1784 in literature — Events* The founding of the Methodist Church by John Wesley * Gottlieb Jakob Planck becomes professor of theology at GöttingenNew books* Thomas Astle The Origin and Progress of Writing * George Berkeley Works * Edmund Burke Speech on the East… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”