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Mary Martha Sherwood (1775-1851)

Mary Martha Sherwood was the daughter of George Butt, Anglican Rector of Stanford in Worcestershire. She was educated at St Quintin's Abbey School at Reading, where Jane Austen had also been a pupil. She published a gothic novel at the age of twenty and that same year moved to Bridgnorth in Shopshire where she joined her newly widowed mother and sister. Both Mary and her sister became Sunday School teachers.

In 1803 she married her cousin Captain Henry Sherwood of the 53rd Regiment. Two years later the couple moved with the regiment to India where they were converted by the evangelical preaching of the chaplain at Berhampore following the death of their first son. Mary started a school while stationed at Cawnpore and developed a close friendship with the missionary Henry Martyn. The Sherwoods were responsible for introducing the first Hindustani translation of the New Testament into the province of Delhi. Sherwood resigned his commission in 1815 and the family returned to England.

The Sherwoods started a school in Worcestershire and Mary also made a good living from her writing. In 1849 they moved to Twickenham near London where Mary died 22 September 1851.

Mary had a prolific literary output ranging from novels to short stories and educational textbooks. Her best works were aimed at presenting evangelical values through fiction and she made very good use of her experiences in India in popular books like Little Henry and Boosy, Arzoomund (1828) and the Indian Piligrim (1818). Her most famous work was The Fairchild Family (three parts, 1818, 1842, 1847) which was reprinted until the 1930s.

Source: Dictionary of Evangelical Biography edited by Donald Lewis (1995)

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