Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Chapman, Mary Francis

CHAPMAN, MARY FRANCIS (1838–1884), novelist, was born on 28 Nov. 1838, at Dublin, where her father held a situation in the custom house. Mr. Chapman being soon afterwards transferred to the London customs, his family came with him to England, and his daughter was placed at a school at Staplehurst in Kent. She early displayed an aptitude for story-writing, and part of her first novel, 'Mary Bertrand, she composed at the age of fifteen. It was published in 1856, when the author was only eighteen. It was followed by 'Lord Bridgnorth's Niece,' which appeared in 1862. In 1869 she contributed to the 'Churchman's Family Magazine' an historical tale, called 'Bellasis; or, the Fortunes of a Cavalier;' it was the joint production of herself and her father. A visit to Scotland, where her elder brother had settled as a clergyman of the Scotch episcopal church, led to her writing, in 1876, 'A Scotch Wooing,' the first of her books that attracted attention. In 1876 appeared her best novel, 'Gerald Marlowe's wife.' Her last work, published in 1879, was 'The Gift of the Gods.' This appeared under her own name; in her previous publications she had used the pseudonym of 'J. C. Ayrton.' Miss Chapman died, after a long illness, at Old Charlton, on 18 Feb. 1884. Her novels are, with the exception of 'Bellasis,' tales of domestic life, with comparatively little incident, but marked by good feeling and refined taste. Her chief gift was an unusual power of writing easy and natural dialogue.

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N. McC.