Kavanagh, Julia (1824–1877)

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Kavanagh, Julia (1824–1877)

British novelist, historian and biographer . Born at Thurles, County Tipperary, Ireland, in 1824; died in Nice, France, on October 28, 1877; daughter of Morgan Peter Kavanagh (1800–1874, a writer); educated at home; never married; no children.

Selected writings:

Three Paths (1847); Madeleine: A Tale of Auvergne (1848); Woman in France during the 18th Century (1850); Nathalie (1851); Women of Christianity (1852); Daisy Burns (1853); Grace Lee (1855); Adéle (1857); A Summer and Winter in the Two Sicilies (1858); French Women of Letters (1862); English Women of Letters (1862); Queen Mab (1863); Beatrice (1865); Dora (1868); John Dorrien (1875); The Pearl Fountain (1876).

The only child of would-be poet, novelist and philologist Morgan Peter Kavanagh, Julia Kavanagh was born in 1824 and would become estranged from her father in 1857, when he credited his second-rate novel The Hobbies to their joint authorship. Kavanagh spent her early life in Normandy and Paris, returning with her family to London in 1844. Thereafter, much of her time was spent caring for her invalid mother, with whom she would publish a book of fairy tales, The Pearl Fountain (1876). Her writing career began with magazine stories and a series of children's books, the first of which was Three Paths (1847). Her years in France provided the inspiration for many of her subsequent novels, including Madeleine (1848) and Nathalie (1851); the latter is said to have influenced Charlotte Brontë 's Villette. Most popular among her novels were Adéle (1857), Queen Mab (1863), and John Dorrien (1875).

Although her style was considered graceful rather than striking, and her characters interesting rather than strongly individualized, she was cited for her poetic feeling and her keen insights into French modes of thought. Kavanagh was perhaps better known for her nonfiction, particularly her biographical volumes about women: Woman in France in the 18th Century (1850), Women of Christianity (1852), French Women of Letters (1862) and English Women of Letters (1863). At the onset of the Franco-German War, the author moved with her mother to Rouen. Following her mother's death, Kavanagh went to live in Nice where she died suddenly in October 1877, at age 53. Her last work, Forget-menots, a collection of short stories, was published a year later.

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