Osborne, Dorothy (1627–1695)

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Osborne, Dorothy (1627–1695)

English letter writer. Born in 1627 in Chicksands Priory, Bedfordshire, England; died in 1695 in Moor Park, near Farnham, Surrey, England; daughter of Sir Peter Osborne (an eminent Royalist) and Lady Dorothy Danvers; married William Temple, in 1654 or 1655; children: Diana Temple; John Temple; several who died in infancy.

Dorothy Osborne was born in 1627 in Chicksands Priory, England, the youngest of 11 children of Sir Peter Osborne and Lady Dorothy Danvers . Osborne met Sir William Temple when she was 21; for the next seven years, they courted, mostly through correspondence, because their families disapproved. Despite this and an attack of smallpox which left Dorothy scarred, the two married in 1654 or 1655. Her husband, a Royalist like her father, would become a diplomat, statesman, and writer.

During their 40 years of marriage, Osborne was William's advisor, and support. She was a diplomat and hostess during his service as ambassador in Brussels, The Hague, Ireland, and London. Charles II even commended her for her bravery during a sea battle against the Dutch in 1671, and her friendship with the future Queen Mary II aided her husband's negotiations concerning Mary's royal marriage to William III. They lost several children in infancy, and daughter Diana died at age 14. Their son John became secretary-at-war before jumping to his death from a boat near London Bridge. Osborne herself died in 1695 in Surrey, England.

Osborne's letters were known for their wit and acerbic tone, and were extremely useful to historians for the detail they provide about the lives of young English women of the time. The letters written to her future husband before their marriage, from 1652 to 1654, were published by T.P. Courtenay in his 1836 Memoirs of the Life, Works and Correspondence of Sir William Temple. E.A. Parry published the complete series of 70 letters from Osborne to Temple in 1888; another edition, praised by Virginia Woolf , was published in 1928.


Buck, Claire, ed. The Bloomsbury Guide to Women's Literature. NY: Prentice Hall, 1992.

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

Jacqueline Mitchell , freelance writer, Detroit, Michigan

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Osborne, Dorothy (1627–1695)

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