Bennett, Agnes Maria (DNB00)

BENNETT, AGNES MARIA (d. 1808), novelist, was a married lady with many children, who survived her; but there is no evidence of her birth, her parentage, or her condition. In 1785 she was permitted to dedicate her first novel, 'Anna, or the Memoirs of a Welch Heiress,' 4 vols., to the princess royal. The whole impression of the work, though published anonymously, was sold on the day of publication (Aikin's Athenæum, iii. 391). The novel was twice translated into French (Didot), first by Dubois Fontenelle, 1784 (which date must be an error, unless the translation was from the manuscript in advance of the English press), and secondly in 1800. Mrs. Bennett's second novel, again published anonymously, was 'Juvenile Indiscretions, 1788; it was attributed at first to Miss Burney (Didot), and translated into French the same year. In 1789 appeared 'Agnes de Courci, a Domestic Tale,' reviewed in the 'Monthly Review' (i. 215), and also popular enough to be translated. A fourth novel by Mrs. Bennett, entitled 'Ellen, Countess of Castle Howel,' 4 vols., issued from the Minerva Press, 12 March 1794, with the author's name, and with an 'Apology' prefixed, which indicated much distress of mind and circumstances. It obtained notice in the 'Monthly Review,' xiv. 74. In 1797 appeared, in 7 vols., price 31s. 6d., 'The Beggar Girl,' supposed to be taken from existing characters at Tooting (Gent. Mag. lxxix. 108), and dedicated to the Duchess of York, near whom Mrs. Bennett was then residing (her own 'Dedication,' vol. i.) In 1806 Mrs. Bennett's popularity was immense; and producing a new novel that year in 6 vols., which she called 'Vicissitudes abroad, or the Ghost of my Father,' 2,000 copies of it were sold on the first day, though the price was 36s.

Mrs. Bennett died at Brighton on 12 Feb. 1808, and her body, being brought to London, was met at the Horns, Kennington Common, on 21 Feb. (European Mag. liii. 156), by a large circle of friends (Aikin's Ath., supra).

Another work by Mrs. Bennett was published after her death in 1816, under the title of 'Faith and Fiction, or Shining Lights in a Dark Generation,' 6 vols. (Watt's Bibl. Brit.) She is also credited with the authorship of two French novels, 'L'Orphelin du Presbytère,' 1816; and 'Beaute et Laideur,' 1820 (Didot), but these were apparently portions of 'Faith and Fiction,' translated. In 1822 Defauconpret translated 'Ellen de Courci' (Didot); and in 1853 an attempt was made to reprint 'Anna,' in penny numbers, by W. Strange, of Lovel's Court, Paternoster Row; but at the second number the issue stopped.

[Watts Bibl. Brit.; Didot's Nouvelle Biogr. Générale; Aikin's Athenæum, iii. 391, 392; European Magazine, liii. 156.]

J. H.