Berry, Mary (1763–1852)

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Berry, Mary (1763–1852)

English writer. Born in Yorkshire, England, in 1763; died in 1852.

After the death of her mother in 1763, Mary Berry and her younger sister Agnes, who would become her lifelong companion, were raised by their grandmother until 1770, when they moved to Chiswick. Mary began writing a journal in 1783, while on a European tour with her father. The Journals, which were published after her death in 1865, span 70 years, from the 18th century to the time of Thackeray.

In 1788, Mary and Agnes became friends of Horace Walpole. He called the sisters his "twin wives" and reportedly made a proposal of marriage to Mary, which she turned down. (She was briefly engaged to General O'Hara, governor of Malta, in 1794). Walpole persuaded the women to move into Little Strawberry Hill (Clivenden) in 1791 and introduced them into literary society. When he died in 1797, Mary edited nine volumes of his works (1798–1825), as well as the Letters ofMme Deffand to Walpole and to Voltaire.

Mary Berry did not become a professional writer until after her father's death in 1817. Her major work was Social Life of England and France, from Charles II to 1830, although she also produced a biography of Lady Rachel Russell (1636–1723), and a play, Fashionable Friends. Intelligent and personable, Berry was included in fashionable literary circles until her death at the age of 90.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts