Rathbone, Hannah Mary (1798–1878)

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Rathbone, Hannah Mary (1798–1878)

British novelist. Born near Wellington in Shropshire, England, on July 5, 1798; died in Liverpool, England, on March 26, 1878; married Richard Rathbone, in 1817; children: six.

Born on July 5, 1798, near Wellington in Shropshire, England, Hannah Mary Rathbone was 19 when she married her half-cousin, Richard Rathbone, with whom she had six children. She was apparently "delicate" in health, but nevertheless wrote and painted and drew.

Rathbone introduced the autobiographic type of historical novel with her 1844 Diary of Lady Willoughby, which purported to be a journal written during the civil war that erupted under King Charles I (r. 1625–49). The story proved quite popular, and the book itself was published as a physical replica of a 17th-century volume. Because the Diary was published anonymously, some believed it had been written by Robert Southey; Rathbone became instantly famous when the third edition was published with her name. A second volume, bringing Lady Willoughby's journal up to the Restoration, was published in 1847, and the volumes were released together the following year.

In addition to the Diary of Lady Willoughby, Rathbone published a volume of poetry and two anthologies of other poets' work, and edited for publication the letters of her grandfather, the Quaker philanthropist Richard Reynolds. She also supplied illustrations for a book on birds. Rathbone died in Liverpool at the age of 79 on March 26, 1878.


The Concise Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Kunitz, Stanley J., and Howard Haycraft, eds. British Authors of the Nineteenth Century. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1936.

Jacqueline Mitchell , freelance writer, Detroit, Michigan

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