Latimer, Elizabeth W. (1822–1904)

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Latimer, Elizabeth W. (1822–1904)

English-born author and translator. Name variations: Elizabeth Wormeley; Elizabeth Wormeley Latimer. Born Mary Elizabeth Wormeley in London, England, on July 26, 1822; died in Baltimore, Maryland, on January 4, 1904; daughter of Ralph Randolph Wormeley (a rear admiral in the British Navy) and Caroline (Preble) Wormeley; married Randolph Brandt Latimer, in 1856; children: several.


Forest Hill: A Tale of Social Life in 1830–31 (1846); Anabel: A Family History (1853); Our Cousin Veronica: or, Scenes and Adventures over the Blue Ridge (1855); (translator) L. Ulbach's Madame Gosselin (1878); (with A.R.W. Curtis) Recollections of Ralph Randolph Wormeley, Rear Admiral, R.N.; Written Down by His Three Daughters (1879); Salvage (1880); My Wife and My Wife's Sister (1881); Princess Amelie: A Fragment of Autobiography (1883); Familiar Talks on Some of Shakespeare's Comedies (1886); (translator) L. Ulbach's The Steel Hammer: A Novel (1888); (translator) L. Ulbach's For Fifteen Years: A Sequel to The Steel Hammer (1888); (translator with J.H. Allen) E. Renan's History of the People of Israel (1888–96); A Chain of Errors (1890); (translator) George Sand 's Nanon (1890); France in the Nineteenth Century, 1830–1890 (1892); Russia and Turkey in the Nineteenth Century (1893); England in the Nineteenth Century (1894); (edited) My Scrap-book of the French Revolution (1894); Italy in the Nineteenth Century and the Making of Austro-Hungary and Germany (1896); Spain in the Nineteenth Century (1897); Europe in Africa in the Nineteenth Century (1898); Judea from Cyrus to Titus, 537 B.C.–70 A.D. (1899); The Last Years of the Nineteenth Century (1900); (translator) J.C.L. de Sismondi's The Italian Republics (1901); (translator) The Love Letters of Victor Hugo, 1820–1822 (1901); Men and Cities of Italy (1901); The Prince Incognito (1902); (translator) G. Gourgaud's Talks of Napoleon at St. Helena with Gen. Baron Gourgaud, Together with the Journal Kept by Gourgaud on Their Journey from Waterloo to St. Helena (1903).

The daughter of American-born parents, Elizabeth Wormeley Latimer was born in 1822 in London, where her father, a naturalized British subject, served as a rear admiral in the British Navy. Latimer spent her youth traveling extensively and living in London and Paris. Although her education was sporadic, she grew up in the company of the socially prominent and made her debut in the court of Louis Philippe. When Latimer was in her 20s, the family returned to America and lived in Boston and Newport, Rhode Island. Encouraged in her writing by Julia Ward Howe , Latimer published her first book in 1846. She followed up with several novels before her marriage to Randolph Latimer in 1865. The couple moved to Baltimore, Maryland, where for the next 20 years Latimer devoted herself to home and family. She returned to her literary career in 1878, turning out novels, magazine articles, translations, and histories for the next 30 years.

Latimer's novels are criticized for lacking well-rounded characters, though Our Cousin Veronica (1855), which utilized many of the author's experiences in England and Virginia, is cited by Karen Steele in American Women Writers for its vivid action and description. Latimer is better remembered for her histories, which reflect her own great love of the past and her fascination with the adventures of royalty, military figures, and explorers. Well researched and written in a lively, readable style, they were extremely popular and went through numerous editions. "In all of her histories," writes Steele, "one senses her desire to keep abreast of events in the world and, at the century's end, to sum up historical achievements." Elizabeth Latimer continued to write until her death on January 4, 1904.


Mainiero, Lina, ed. American Women Writers. NY: Frederick Ungar, 1980.

McHenry, Robert, ed. Famous American Women. NY: Dover, 1983.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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