Online Encyclopedia

JANE PORTER (1776–1850)

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V22, Page 116 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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JANE PORTER (1776–1850), British novelist, daughter of an army surgeon, was born at Durham in 1776. Her life and reputation are closely linked with those of her sister, ANNA MARIA PORTER (1780-1832), novelist, and her brother, SIR ROBERT KER PORTER (1775–1842), painter and traveller. After their father's death, in 1779, the mother removed from Durham, their birth-place, to Edinburgh, where the children's love of romance was stimulated by their association with Flora Macdonald and the young Walter Scott. Mrs Porter moved to London, so that her son might study art, and the sisters subsequently resided at Thames Ditton and at Esher with their mother until her death in 1831. Anna Maria Porter published Artless Tales in 1793 1795, the first of a long series of works of which the more note-worthy are Walsh Colville (1797), Octavia (1798), The Lake of Killarney (1804), A Sailor's Friendship and a Soldier's Love (18o5), The Hungarian Brothers (1807), Don Sebastian (18og), Ballads, Romances and other Poems (1811), The Recluse of Norway (1814), The Knight of St John (1817), The Fast of St Magdalen (1818), The Village of Mariendorpt (1821), Roche Blanche (1822), Honor O'Hara (1826) and Barony (183o). Jane Porter—whose intellectual power, though slower in development and in expression, was greater than her sister's—had in the meantime gained immediate popularity by her first work, Thaddeus of Warsaw (1803), 1 See JONES, JOHN PAUL, and an article by General Porter, " The Recovery of the Body of John Paul Jones," in the Century Magazine, (1905), lxx. 927 sqq.which was translated into several languages and procured her election as canoness of the Teutonic order of St Joachim. In 181o, four years before the appearance of Waverley, she attempted national romance in her Scottish Chiefs. The story of Wallace had been a favourite one in her childhood, and she was probably well acquainted with the poem of Blind Harry (Henry the Minstrel). Although the book lacked historical accuracy, and the figure of Wallace is a sentimental conception of the least convincing kind, the picturesque power of narration displayed by Miss Porter has saved the story from the oblivion which has overtaken the works of most of Scott's predecessors in historical fiction. Her later works included The Pastor's Fireside (1815), Duke Christian of Luneburg (1824), Coming Out (1828) and The Field of Forty Footsteps (1828). In conjunction with her sister she published in 1826 the Tales round a Winter Hearth. She also wrote some plays, and frequent contributions to current periodical literature. Sir Edward Seaward's Diary (1831) was asserted by Miss Porter to be founded on documents placed in her hands by the author's family, but is generally regarded as pure fiction. The claim of her eldest brother, Dr William Ogilvie Porter, to its authorship rests on a memorial inscription in Bristol Cathedral, written by Jane. On the 21st of September 1832 Anna Maria died, and for the next ten years Jane became " a wanderer " amongst her relations and friends. Robert Ker Porter had in his own way been scarcely less successful than his sisters. After two years of study at the Royal Academy he had gained reputation as a painter of altar-pieces and battle-scenes of imposing magnitude. He went to Russia as historical painter to the emperor in 1804, travelled in Finland and Sweden, where he received knighthood from Gustavus IV. in 18o6, and accompanied Sir John Moore to Spain in 18o8. In 1811 he returned to Russia and married a Russian princess. He was knighted by the Prince Regent in 1813. In 1817 he travelled to Persia by way of St Petersburg and the Caucasus, returning through Bagdad and western Asia Minor. He examined the ruins of Persepolis, making many valuable drawings and copying cuneiform inscriptions. In 1826 he became British consul in Venezuela. His services there were recognized by a knight commandership of the Order of Hanover. Accounts of his wanderings are to be found in his Travelling Sketches in Russia and Sweden (18o8), Letters from Portugal and Spain (1809), Narrative of the late Campaign in Russia (1813), and Travels in Georgia, Persia, Armenia, Ancient Babylonia &'c., during the years r817–18zo (1821–1822). After leaving Venezuela (1841) he again visited St Petersburg, and died there suddenly on the 4th of May 1842. Jane Porter, who had joined him in Russia, then returned to England and took up her residence with her eldest brother at Bristol, where she died on the 24th of May r85o.
End of Article: JANE PORTER (1776–1850)
MARY PORTER (d. 1765)

Additional information and Comments

Dear Sir or Madam. I have a letter from Jane Porter her address is Cottage 1802 in it she mentions her lover and coplains about the standard her books have been bound.She thanks a man who taught her to write to whom she cannot thank enough Her writting at the last part of the letter seems very poetical such as if i had a thousand tonues i could not thank you enough.I live in Durham all her family were born hear i was supprised Durham University library have not got one letter from her they are all from her brother Ker Porter
I dont know if you do all biographys but George Ridley who wrote the Blaydon Races and other songs was not born in the house that is stated 1 Gramesley street Gateshead and i can prove this all his biographers got it wrong he was born in Pollock street Gateshead he only moved to Gramsley street a few years before he died if you would like information to prove this please get in tough. Regards Peter. Jefferies
I have a copy of Scottish Chiefs, it looks original and there is a notation on the forepage. Is it valuable?
I bought a copy of the scottish chiefs in a charity shop for 20p,its got a dark green outer cover with black holly like drawing on it,it s publisher is milner and company london,at the end of the preface its dated long ditton,december 1803, i wonder is this a first edition?
I am researching the life of Jane Porter and her sister Anna Marie - and in particular their time in Esher Surrey. I have located the house she lived - Alderlands, in the High Street but would like to know how long she lived ther. This for a Commemorative Plaque to honour them
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