Sunday, January 15, 2006

January 16: Frances Browne (1816-1879)


Years and years ago there lived, in a certain town a poor old blind woman. All her friends and neighbours pitied her because she was poor and blind. But if they had only known it there was no need for pity. They might well have envied her instead, for this old woman had the gift of magic, and because of her magic her blind eyes could see farther and clearer than any other pair of eyes in all the town. She could see hidden things; the things of fairyland, and of the world beyond this.
--Katharine Pyle, Preface, Granny's Wonderful Chair and its Tales of Fairy Times by Frances Browne (1916 edition)
Irish children's author Frances Browne was born 16 January 1816, in Donegal. She became blind at eighteen months, in consequence of a bout with smallpox. As a child, she listened while her many siblings recited their school lessons, and gleaned vocabulary from church sermons. In her twenties, she began publishing poetry, with enough success to move herself and her sister to Edinburgh, then London in 1852. Besides her children's stories in Granny's Wonderful Chair and elsewhere, she wrote three novels in the 1860s.

For more on Browne:

Thomas McLean, "Arms and the Circassian Woman: Frances Browne's 'The Star of Atteghei,'" Victorian Poetry 41(3)(Fall 2003): 295-318.

Robert Dunbar, "Rarely Pure and Never Simple: The World of Irish Children's Literature," The Lion and the Unicorn 21(3)(September 1997): 309-321.

C. Nelson, "Art for Man's Sake: Frances Browne's Magic and Victorian Social Aesthetics," Bookbird 36(2)(1998): 19-?.

3 comments:

Ahistoricality said...

Cool. Do you know if any of her stuff is still in print? It ought to be out of copyright by now, so if it's any good, someone should reprint it.

Penny L. Richards said...

I just checked Amazon: Browne's _Granny's Wonderful Chair_ is available in-print in a hardcover illustrated edition, and as an unabridged audiocassette edition; and it looks like it's not too hard to find older editions used (hardcover and paperback). Don't think her three novels are available in-print; nor her book of poetry.

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