Brooke, Frances (1724–1789)

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Brooke, Frances (1724–1789)

English novelist and dramatist. Name variations: Mary Singleton, Spinster. Born Frances Moore in Claypole, Lincolnshire, England, on January 24, 1724; died in Sleaford, Lincolnshire, England, on January 23, 1789; daughter of Mary (Knowles) Moore and William Moore (Anglican minister); grew up in Lincolnshire and Peterborough; educated at home; married Reverend John Brooke, D.D., rector of Colney, Norfolk, in 1756; children: one son, John Moore (b. June 10, 1757).

Selected works:

Letters from Juliet, Lady Catesby (translated from Marie-Jeanne Riccoboni's French novel, 1760); History of Lady Julia Mandeville (1763); The History of Emily Montague (1769); The Excursion (1777).

An English novelist, poet, and dramatist, Frances Moore was born in Claypole, Lincolnshire, England, on January 24, 1724, the daughter of Mary Knowles Moore and Reverend William Moore. When William Moore died three years later, in 1727, Mary Moore moved to her mother's home in Peterborough with her three young daughters. There, Frances Moore and her sister Sarah lived and were educated until their mother's death ten years later. (The third sister died in childhood.)

Then a maternal aunt raised the sisters until they turned 21 and inherited £1,000. Frances used her bequest to live independently in London and launch the periodical, The Old Maid, writing under the name Mary Singleton, Spinster. She produced 37 issues before ceasing publication in July of 1756, following her marriage to Anglican minister John Brooke who was 15 years her senior. Frances was his second wife.

Enlisting in the army in March of 1757, John Brooke shipped out to Canada where he served as chaplain at the garrison at Quebec; he was part of the British forces fighting the Seven Years' War with France, which included the territorial struggle for Canada. Frances, three months pregnant, went to live with her sister Sarah. Under financial strain because of her husband's absence, Brooke undertook translations, most notably Marie-Jeanne Riccoboni 's French epistolary novel, which in English became Letters from Juliet, Lady Catesby (1760). She also wrote the successful and sentimental History of Lady Julia Mandeville (1763), which had ten subsequent editions.

In 1763, with the war over, Brooke set sail for Canada to join her husband after a six-and-a-half-year separation. She was accompanied by her sister and her son John Moore, born on June 10, 1757, who had yet to meet his father. They arrived on October 4, 1763. John Brooke was the only Protestant minister in Quebec and hoped to lead efforts to convert the largely Roman-Catholic, French-speaking population to the Church of England. Frances advanced John's position within the established colonial government as well as back in England on a 1764 visit. Ultimately John was denied the responsibility of leading the reformation.

In 1767, Frances began The History of Emily Montague, a four-volume novel depicting life in Canada, which was well-received and often used as a reference manual by those moving to Canada. The first book to fictionally describe the new North American colony, Emily Montague earned Brooke the distinction of having authored the first Canadian novel.

Brooke's greatest love, however, was the theater. She and her friend, actress Mary Ann Yates , managed the Haymarket Opera House from 1773 to 1778, after Yates' husband and Brooke's brother-in-law bought the property. Brooke's own stage plays—The Siege of Sinope (with Yates in the lead) and musicals Rosina and Marian—were produced in the 1780s and remained popular for many years.

John Brooke, Jr., also became a minister. On a visit to her son's Lincolnshire parish in late 1788, Frances Brooke suddenly became ill and died there on January 23, 1789, two days after the death of her husband in Norfolk and one day shy of her 65th birthday.

suggested reading:

McMullen, Lorraine. Frances Brooke and Her Work. Ontario, Canada: ECW Press, 1983.

Crista Martin , Boston, Massachusetts

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Brooke, Frances (1724–1789)

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