Sophia Lee

Life
1750-1824; b. London; dg. John Lee (d.1781), actor at London and Bath who adapted Shakespeare harmfully; sis. of Harriet Lee, novelist; Drury Lane (1747-49), moving to Covent Garden; her mother died early; looked after her younger siblings; wrote The Chapter of Accidents (1780), a three-act opera; rejected by Covent Garden; eventually accepted by Colman the Elder at Haymarket Theatre; extended it to five-acts; staged successfully 5 Aug. 1780; opened school for young ladies at Belvedere House, Bath, on death of father (1781), 1781-1803; lived there with sisters Anne and Harriet; educ. Cecilia, dg. of Mrs Siddons; issued The Recess, or a Tale of Other Times (Cadell 1783-85), a ‘historical tale’ set in reign of Elizabeth I, partly in Ireland and Jamaica and a concerning twin daughters of Mary Queen of Scots; praised by R. B. Sheridan, Elizabeth Linley, and Ann Ward (Mrs Radcliffe); issued a ballad “The Hermit’s Tale” (1787) also a blank verse tragedy, Almeyda, Queen of Granada (20 April 1796, Drury Lane), a blank verse tragedy ded. to Siddons who appeared in the title role with her brs. Charles and John Philip Kemble in the cast; ran only four nights; with Harriet, contrib. “The Young Lady’s Tale” and “The Clergyman’s Tale” to the Canterbury Tales (1797-1805); received visits from William Godwin, seeking hand of Harriet, March 1798; acquainted with General Pasquale Paoli, the Corsican leader, Mrs Piozzi and Sir Thomas Lawrence, et al.; issued The Life of a Lover, 6 vols. (1804); also a comedy, The Assignation 28 Jan. 1807, Drury Lane); issued Ormond; or the Debauchee, 3 vols. (1810); settled nr. Tintern Abbey and afterwards at Clifton, nr. Bristol; d. 13 March; bur. Clifton Church. ODNB

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Criticism
Megan Lynn Isaac, ‘Sophia Lee and the Gothic of Female Community’, in Studies in the Novel, 28, 2 (1996), pp.200-18; see also James es Boaden, Memoirs of Mrs Siddons, 2 vols. (London: Moxon 1839).

There is a webpage devoted to Sophia Lee at Universita degli Studi di Parma [link].

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Commentary
Siobhán Kilfeather, ‘Origins of Female Gothic’, in Bullán: An Irish Studies Journal, 1, 2 (Autumn 1994), pp.35-45, characterising The Recess as a novel that uses Ireland and Jamaica as the sites of perverse sexuality and rebellion. (p.41.)

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