Fiennes, Celia (1662–1741)

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Fiennes, Celia (1662–1741)

British traveler and writer . Pronunciation: Fines. Born in Newton Toney, near Salisbury, in 1662; died in London in 1741; daughter of Nathaniel (member of the Council of State and the Keeper of the Great Seal under Cromwell) and Frances (Whitehead) Fiennes; never married; no children.

The travel journals of Celia Fiennes are prominent in the literature by women of the late 17th century. Born into a prestigious Puritan family, Fiennes undertook a series of journeys through England sometime between 1685 and 1702 (her accounts are not dated), supposedly in pursuit of good health and, in her own words, a "spirit of pure curiosity." Traveling mostly on horseback, accompanied by one or two servants, she made her way from one health resort to another, recording in detail the towns she visited, where she stayed, the food she ate, and what she paid for it. She visited coal mines, local workshops, archeological sites, caves, cathedrals, and manor houses, and her observations provide a valuable source of English economic and social history. Joanne Shattock likens the journals to Daniel Defoe's Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain (1724–26) and William Cobbett's later Rural Rides (1830). Fiennes' travel book Through England on a Side Saddle in the Time of William and Mary was first published in 1888 by a descendant who had acquired the manuscript. A modern edition, The Journeys of Celia Fiennes, edited by Christopher Morris, came out in 1947.


Shattock, Joanne. The Oxford Guide to British Women Writers. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.