Frances Browne (1816-79)


Life
[“Blind Poetess of Donegal”; occas. err. Brown]; b. 16 Jan., Stranorlar, Co. Donegal, dg. village postmaster of Stranorlar; ed. school of Mr McGranahan; first poems in Northern Whig, sent for publication without her knowledge; contributed first to Irish Penny Journal, then Hood’s Magazine and Athenaeum; civil pension awarded by Robert Peel; left Ireland and settled Edinburgh, 1847; protegée of John Wilson, q.v.;
 
hired by Chamber’s Magazine, and moved to London on gift of 100 from Lord Lansdowne; wrote Granny’s Wonderful Chair (1857), reputedly plagiarised by Frances Hodgson Burnett, author of The Secret Garden, in a reissue of 1904 prefaced by her enthusiastic introduction; issued Pictures and Songs of Home (1856); also published poems in Athenaeum; she received Civil List pension and died of a heart complaint. CAB JMC DBIV DIW DIB MAC RAF SUTH ATT OCIL

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Works

Poetry
  • The Star of Attéghei; The Vision of Schwartz, and Other Poems (London: Edward Moxon 1844);
  • Lyrics and Miscellaneous Poems (Edinburgh: Sutherland & Knox 1848);
  • Pictures and Songs of Home (London: T. Nelson & Sons [1856]);
Fiction
  • The Ericksons; The Clever Boy, or Consider Another - two stories for my young friends (Edinburgh: Paton & Richie 1852);
  • Granny’s Wonderful Chair and Its Tales of Fairy Times (London: Griffith & Farran 1857) [see edns., infra];
  • Our Uncle[:] The Traveller’s Stories (London: W. Kenty 1859);
  • The Castleford Case (3 vols., London: Hurst & Blackett 1862);
  • The Orphans of Elfholm (London: Groombridge [1862]);
  • The Young Foresters (London: Groombridge [1864]);
  • [anon.,] The Hidden Sin, 3 vols. (London: [n.p.] 1866);
  • The Exile’s Trust; A Tale of the French Revolution and Other Stories (London: Leisure Hour [1869]);
  • The Nearest Neighbour and Other Stories (London: Religious Truth Soc. [1875]);
  • The Dangerous Guest: A Story of 1745 (London: RTS [1886]);
  • The Foundling of the Fens (London: RTS [1886]);
  • The First of the African Diamonds (London: RTS [1887].
Autobiography
  • My Share of the World, an autobiography (London: Hurst & Blackett 1861);
Query, Legends of Ulster.
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Bibliographical details
Granny’s Wonderful Chair, and its Tales of Fairy Times (London: Griffith & Farran 1857), ill. Kenny Meadows; Do. [another edn.] [1891], ill. Marie Seymour Lucas, reiss. [1896]; Do. [another edn.] [1900]; Do. [another edn.] with intro. by Frances Hodgson Burnett [i.e., plagiarised by] as The Story of the Lost Fairy Book (London & NY: McLuse, Phillips & Co. 1904); Do. [another edn.], intro. by Dollie Radford (London: J. M. Dent; NY: E. P. Dutton [1906]), ill. Dora Curtis; Do. [another edn.] (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1908), col. ill. W. H. Margetson; Do. [another edn.] (London: S. W. Partridge & Co. 1909); Do. as ‘Lords of the Castles’, and Other Stories from Granny’s Wonderful Chair … with composition exercises] (London: A. C. Black 1909); Do. [another edn.] (London: Blackie & Son [1912]), ill. A. A. Dixon; Do. [another edn.] (London: G. T. Foulis & Co 1925), ill. ‘Decies’; Do. [another edn. (London: E. P. Dutton 1913); Do. [another edn.] (London 1925), ill. Charles Folkard; Do. [another edn]. (London [1926]), ill. R. B. Ogle; Do. [another edn.] (Toronto & London: Letchworth [1927]); Do. [another edn., first 3 chaps.] (London: [Brodie Bks. 1927]); Do. [another edn.], ed. H. A. Treble (Edinburgh & London: Oliver & Boyd [1938]); Do. [another edn] as ‘The Story of Fairyfoot’, from Granny’s Wonderful Chair ([London:] Gulliver Little Books [1943]); Do. [another edn.] (London: Gulliver Popular Library 1943); Do. [another edn. ‘retold from the story of Frances Browne’ [Silver Torch Series] (Glasgow: Collins 1947); Do. [another edn.] ([London]: Roger Ingram 1948), ill. Sylvia Green; Do. [reissue of 1912 edn.] (London: Blackie & Son [1955]) … &c.

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Criticism
J. R. R. Adams, ‘Frances Brown [sic]: The Blind Poetess of Stranorlar’, in Raphoe Diocesan Magazine (May 1974), pp.5-6; Brenda O’Hanrhan, Donegal Authors: A Bibliography (1982).

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Commentary
Margaret Kelleher, ‘Prose Writing and Drama in English; 1830-1890 […]’, in Cambridge History of Irish Literature, ed. Kelleher & Philip O’Leary (Cambridge UP 2006), Vol. 1 [Chap. 11]: ‘In 1886 Frances Hodgson Burnett, author of children’s stories such as The Secret Garden, began in the New York periodical St Nicholas a series entitled “Stories from the Lost Fairy Book, Retold by the Child Who Read Them”. The “lost” book was immediately revealed to be Irish author Frances Browne’s well-known Granny’s Wonderful Chair and Its Tales of Fairy Times (1856), editions of which, despite Burnett’s claims to have searched unsuccessfully in both England and America, had appeared throughout the 1880s.’ (p.474.)

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References
Justin McCarthy, ed., Irish Literature (Washington: Catholic Univ. of America 1904, selects “The Story of Childe Charity”, and “What hath Time Taken?”.

D. J. O’Donoghue, Poets of Ireland (Dublin: Hodges Figgis 1912), lists The Star of Atteghei and other poems, London 1844; Lyrics and Misc. Poems, Edinburgh 1848; give biog. and rems: blind from birth; novels include the reprinted child’s Granny’s Wonderful Chair [n.d.]. Further, Rev. Charles Roger notes in Lyra Britannica that she was born in 1818 [DIW seems to have copied this date]. Also anthologised in Hayes, MacIlwaine (Lyra Celtica), Sparling, Williams, et al.

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Irish Book Lover indexes the poet as ‘Brown, Frances’. Vol. VIII (1916-17) contains a ‘Centenary’ Notice but gives no indication that she was cured by Sir William Wilde. See also Vol. II.

Patrick Rafroidi, Irish Literature in English: The Romantic Period, 1789-1850 (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1980) lists the poet as ‘Frances Brown’ with dates, 1816-1879.

Elaine Showalter, A Literature of their Own (1984), calls Browne a children’s book writer and gives biog.: b. Donegal, seventh of twelve children of a post-master; blind from childhood; self-educated, left home at 21, to Edinburgh, then London; belonged to Religious Tract Society; remained single; first novel, The Ericksons (1852).

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Robert Hogan, ed., Dictionary of Irish Literature (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1979), containings article by Mary Rose Callaghan recounting details of the plagiarism of Granny’s Wonderful Chair, a set of instructive children’s stories, by Frances Hodgson Burnett in 1877, and the subsequent reprinting of the original.

John Sutherland, The Longman Companion to Victorian Fiction (Longmans 1988; rep. 1989), gives biog.: helped by her sister she turned out articles for magazines incl., after 1841, The Athenaeum. contrib. to Leisure Hour during 20 years; issued The Eriksons (1852); worked for Religious Texts Society [TRS]; issued 18 books incl. Granny’s Wonderful Chair (1857) and autobiography (1861); Civil list pension 1863; died of apoplexy.

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Margaret Kelleher, ‘Prose Writing and Drama in English; 1830-1890 […]’, in Cambridge History of Irish Literature, ed. Kelleher & Philip O’Leary (Cambridge UP 2006), Vol. 1 [Chap. 11], writes of Frances Browne, ‘“the blind poetess of Donegal” and author of highly successful children’s stories, as well as novels such as My Share of the World (1861) and The Hidden Sin (1866).’

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Notes
Emma Donoghue, The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits (London: Virago 2002), contains a story “Night Vision” dealing with the childhood of Frances Brown or Browne; lived in London with yngr. sister and amanuensis/

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