CHAPONE, HESTER (1727–1801), English essayist, daughter of Thomas Mulso, a country gentleman, was born at Twywell, Northamptonshire, on the 27th of October 1727. She was a precocious child, and at the age of nine wrote a romance entitled The Loves of Amoret and Melissa. Hecky Mulso, as she was familiarly called, developed a beautiful voice, which earned her the name of “the linnet.” While on a visit to Canterbury she made the acquaintance of the learned Mrs Elizabeth Carter, and soon became one of the admirers of the novelist Samuel Richardson. She was one of the little court of women who gathered at North End, Fulham; and in Miss Susannah Highmore’s sketch of the novelist reading Sir Charles Grandison to his friends Miss Mulso is the central figure. She corresponded with Richardson on “filial obedience” in letters as long as his own, signing herself his “ever obliged and affectionate child.” She admired, however, with discrimination, and in the words of her biographer (Posthumous Works, 1807, p. 9) “her letters show with what dignity, tempered with proper humility, she could maintain her own well-grounded opinion.” In 1760 Miss Mulso, with her father’s reluctant consent, married the attorney, John Chapone, who had been befriended by Richardson. Her husband died within a year of her marriage. Mrs Chapone remained in London visiting various friends. She had already made small contributions to various periodicals when she published, in 1772, her best known work, Letters on the Improvement of the Mind. This book brought her numerous requests from distinguished persons to undertake the education of their children. She died on the 25th of December 1801.
See The Posthumous Works of Mrs Chapone, containing her correspondence with Mr Richardson; a series of letters to Mrs Elizabeth Carter ... together with an account of her life and character drawn up by her own family (1807).