Swanwick, Anna (1813–1899)

views updated

Swanwick, Anna (1813–1899)

British translator, feminist, and philanthropist. Born in Liverpool, England, on June 22, 1813; died, age 86, at Tunbridge Wells, Kent, on November 2, 1899; youngest daughter of John Swanwick.

Anna Swanwick was born in Liverpool in 1813. She was educated at home and at a fashionable boarding school but was dissatisfied with her schooling, which stressed the proper skills for women. In 1839, Swanwick journeyed to Berlin to study German, Greek, and Hebrew. On her return to London in 1843, she took up mathematics. Swanwick's first volume of translations, Selections from the Dramas of Goethe and Schiller, appeared in 1843. In 1847, she published a translation of Schiller's Jungfrau von Orleans; this was followed by Faust, Tasso, Iphigenie and Egmont (1850). In 1878, she published a complete translation of both parts of Faust in blank verse (illustrated by Retch) which ranked as one of the best, ran through several editions, and was included in Bohn's series of foreign classics in English. Swanwick then turned her attention to translating from the Greek. In 1865, she published a blank verse translation of Aeschylus' Trilogy (1865), followed by a complete edition of Aeschylus, illustrated by Flaxman (1873).

Though chiefly remembered for her translations, Swanwick also published original prose: Books, our Best Friends and Deadliest Foes (1886); An Utopian Dream and How it May Be Realized (1888); Poets, the Interpreters of their Age (1892); and Evolution and the Religion of the Future (1894).

Along with a large circle of noted friends, including Crabb Robinson, Robert Browning, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and James Martineau, Swanwick was also involved in social and philanthropic movements. In 1861, she signed John Stuart Mill's petition to Parliament for women's enfranchisement. She also led in the crusade to open universities to women and helped found Girton College, Cambridge, and Somerville Hall, Oxford. Swanwick was awarded a LL.D. from the University of Aberdeen.

suggested reading:

Bruce, M.L. Anna Swanwick: A Memoir, 1904.