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A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature/Martineau, Harriet

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Martineau, Harriet (1802-1876). -- Novelist and economist, b. at Norwich, where her f., descended from a French family, was a manufacturer. From her earliest years she was delicate and very deaf, and took to literary pursuits as an amusement. Afterwards, when her f. had fallen into difficulties, they became her means of support. Her first publication was Devotional Exercises for Young Persons (1823). Becoming interested in political economy, she endeavoured to illustrate the subject by tales, of which two were The Rioters and The Turn-out. Later she pub. a more serious treatment of it in Illustrations of Political Economy (1832-4), Poor Law and Paupers (1833), and Illustrations of Taxation (1834). About this time she went to London, and was regarded as an authority on economic questions, being occasionally consulted by Cabinet Ministers. Among her books of travel are Society in America (1837), and Eastern Life, Present and Past (1848), which she considered her best book: in it she declared herself no longer a believer in revelation. She also wrote two novels, Deerbrook (1839), and The Hour and the Man (1840), also a number of books for children. Perhaps her most important work is her History of England during the Thirty Years' Peace, 1816-46, which appeared in 1849. She translated Comte's Philosophy (1853), and pub. a collection of letters between herself and Mr. H.G. Atkinson On the Laws of Man's Nature and Development, which encountered severe criticism. In addition to her separate publications she wrote innumerable articles for newspapers, specially the Daily News, and for periodicals. In 1845 she settled in the Lake District, where she died.