Lady Sydney Morgan (1783-1859)
One of the most hotly discussed literary figures of her generation.
The work of Irish novelist Lady Sydney Morgan was highly regarded by some, including Sir Walter Scott and Lord Byron. However, she also attracted some unusually fierce criticism for a female writer.
Sydney simply responded with spirit and continued to write, becoming the first woman to receive a government pension for services to the world of letters.
She was the privately-educated daughter of comic actor Robert Owenson. When the family hit financial difficulty, Sydney was forced to find a job. She became a governess in Dublin, and enthusiastically took up reading, writing, singing and dancing. She published her first volume of poetry in 1801.
The following year Sydney began writing novels. Her third, and most famous, was The Wild Irish Girl, a keenly nationalistic Irish romance. At first she wrote passionately about Ireland, then later about women’s rights and freedom.
Sydney married physician Sir Thomas Morgan in 1812, and became Lady Morgan. She wrote many more novels under this name, until her eyes began to fail. The Morgans spent the last twenty years of their lives in London.