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Reeve, Clara (1729–1807)

Reeve, Clara (1729–1807)

English novelist and poet . Born in 1729 at Ipswich, England; died on December 3, 1807, at Ipswich; daughter of William Reeve (a Suffolk cleric) and Hannah Smithies.

Selected works:

Original Poems on Several Occasions (1769); The Old English Baron (also known as The Champion of Virtue: A Gothic Story, 1777); The Two Mentors (1780); The Progress of Romance (1785); The School for Widows (1791); Plans of Education (1792); Memoirs of Sir Roger de Clarendon (1793); Destination; or Memoirs of a Private Family (1799).

Clara Reeve was born in 1729 at Ipswich in England, the eldest of eight children. Her maternal grandfather was King George I's goldsmith and jeweler, and her father William Reeve, from whom she said she "learned all she knew," was a rector and curate. At an early age, under her father's guidance, she began reading such weighty material as parliamentary debates, Rapin's History of England, Cato's Letters, Plutarch, and Greek and Roman history.

Reeve experienced early disappointment in 1769 with her first published work, Original Poems on Several Occasions. In 1772, she translated the 1621 Latin novel Argenis under the title The Phoenix, before achieving great success with her Gothic novel The Champion of Virtue: A Gothic Story in 1777. In the second and subsequent editions, the title of the novel was changed to the better-known The Old English Baron, and the book was later translated into French and German. Her Progress of Romance (1785) was a critical examination of the history of romance and fiction, presented as a dialogue in which the characters analyze such topics as female writers. Reeve published several other novels before she died at Ipswich in December 1807.


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

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

Jacquie Maurice , freelance writer, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

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