Date range: 1818–33.
Maria Jane Jewsbury and her sister Geraldine were born in Measham, Derbyshire, in 1800 and 1812 respectively.
In 1818 the family moved to Manchester, but their mother died the following year, and Maria Jane was left to run the household and care for her young sister and two brothers. She began writing poetry in her teens, and in 1825 published Phantasmagoria, a collection of her poems, stories and essays. This was highly regarded by William and Dorothy Wordsworth, and Maria Jane became a firm friend of their daughter Dora.
Following a long period of illness, she published the strongly evangelical Letters to the young in 1828. She died of cholera in India in 1833, having married the Reverend William Kew Fletcher in the previous year.
Geraldine went on to become a distinguished novelist, and is best known today as the life-long friend of Thomas and Jane Carlyle.
The collection largely comprises over sixty revealing letters sent by Maria Jane Jewsbury to her sister Geraldine between 1826 and 1833.
There are also two letters from Maria Jane to her mother, 1818; two letters written by Maria Jane to James Burke and Miss Bagley, both family friends, in 1826; an undated manuscript poem by Maria Jane entitled ‘A Ballad on Delight’, and a prose piece by her called ‘Desultory Thoughts’, 1831; and seven letters written to the Jewsbury family after Maria Jane’s death in 1833.
The collection is highly significant for studies of Maria Jane and Geraldine Jewsbury themselves – who have both attracted renewed interest from feminist critics in recent years – and for wider studies of women writers, provincial literary networks and early nineteenth-century cultural studies.
- Uncatalogued (English MS 1320).
- Monica Frykstedt, ‘The hidden rill: the life and career of Maria Jane Jewsbury’, Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, vol. 66, no. 2 (1984), pp. 177–203.
- Harriet Devine Jump, ‘‘My Dearest Geraldine’: Maria Jane Jewsbury’s letters’, Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, vol. 81, no. 1 (1999), pp. 63–72.