Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Le Noir, Elizabeth Anne

LE NOIR, ELIZABETH ANNE (1755?–1841), poet and novelist, born about 1755, was daughter of Christopher Smart the poet [q. v.] Her mother, Anna Maria Carnan, was step-daughter of John Newbery the publisher. Newbery invariably showed Smart the utmost kindness, and, after his death in the King's Bench prison on 18 May 1770, gave employment to the widow and her two daughters in the office of the ‘Reading Mercury,’ which belonged to him. The Smarts settled at Reading. John Newbery also secured by his will provision for Mrs. Smart; and her daughters, Mrs. Le Noir and Mrs. Cowslade, ultimately inherited the ‘Reading Mercury.’ In 1795 Elizabeth married a French refugee, Jean Baptiste Le Noir de la Brosse, chevalier of the royal and military order of St. Louis. Her husband had settled as a teacher of French at Reading, and wrote many educational works, such as ‘The Logographical … French Spelling Book,’ 1799, 8th edit. 1839, and ‘Pratique de l'Orateur François,’ 4th edit. 1812, besides two ‘Odes Pindariques’ on current French politics. He died at Herne Hill on 4 Jan. 1833, aged 80 (Gent. Mag. 1833, pt. i. p. 91). Mrs. Le Noir lived at a house within the precincts of the Abbey of Reading, and died, aged 86, at the Priory, Caversham, on 6 May 1841.

Mrs. Le Noir was author of: 1. ‘Village Annals, a Scene in Domestic Life,’ a novel in 2 vols. 1803. 2. ‘Village Anecdotes, or the Journal of a Year, from Sophia to Edward,’ 1804. The printer and publisher complain of the author's handwriting, and make it the excuse for the long list of errata. A second edition in 1807 is dedicated to Dr. Burney, who praised the book very highly. There was a third edition in 1821. 3. ‘Victorine's Excursions,’ 1804. 4. ‘Clara de Montfier, a Moral Tale,’ in three volumes, 1808, dedicated to Lady Charlotte Greville; 2nd edit. 1810, under the name of ‘The Maid of La Vendée.’ Dr. Burney criticised the manuscript very favourably. 5. ‘Conversations, interspersed with Poems, for the Amusement and Instruction of Youth,’ 2 vols. 1812. 6. ‘Miscellaneous Poems,’ 2 vols. 1825, dedicated to Viscountess Sidmouth.

Like Dr. Burney, Mary Russell Mitford greatly admired Mrs. Le Noir's tales and poems; she writes that her ‘books when taken up one does not care to put down again’ (Recollections of a Literary Life, iii. 101). The novels are interesting as specimens of the fashionable fiction of their day. Some of the verses, notably ‘The Old Oak at Ufton Court’ and ‘The Morning Hymn,’ were characterised in their day as ‘beautiful.’

A daughter of Mrs. Le Noir's husband by a former marriage published for the perusal of young ladies, ‘Les Promenades de Victorine,’ 1804, apparently a translation of her stepmother's ‘Victorine's Excursions,’ ‘Le Compagne de la Jeunesse,’ and ‘L'Instructrice et son Elève.’ She died at Leamington on 21 Sept. 1830 (Gent. Mag. 1830, pt. ii. p. 477).

[Information supplied by Mr. Frederick Cowslade, proprietor of the Reading Mercury; Anderson's Poets, xi. 119, 122; Early Diary of Frances Burney, i. 127; A Bookseller of the Last Century, by Charles Welsh; Dict. of Living Authors, 1816; Gent. Mag. 1823, pt. i. p. 582, and 1841, pt. i. p. 667.]

E. L.