Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Banks, Isabella

BANKS, ISABELLA, known as Mrs. Linnæus Banks (1821–1897), novelist, daughter of James Varley, a chemist in Marriott's Court, Brown Street, Manchester, who died in 1842, and of his wife Amelia Daniels, was born in Oldham Street, Manchester, on 25 March 1821. In early life she was in charge of a school at Cheetham, near Manchester, Her first literary effort, a poem entitled 'A Dying Girl to her Mother,' appeared in the 'Manchester Guardian' on 12 April 1837. On 27 Dec. 1846 she married at the Collegiate Church, Manchester, George Linnæus Banks [q. v.], a poet and journalist of Birmingham. She assisted him in his work, and contributed to the periodicals edited by him. Her first novel, ' God's Providence House,' was published in I860. Her best-known work, 'The Manchester Man,' in three volumes, appeared in 1876. It gives an interesting and life-like picture of Manchester in the first quarter of the century and of the riots of 1819. By 1881 it was in a fourth edition, and a one-volume edition was published later. Other novels dealt also with life in Manchester and its neighbourhood, and Mrs. Banks was often called the 'Lancashire novelist,' She received a pension from the civil list in 1895, and died at Dalston on 5 May 1897. Her husband predeceased her on 3 May 1881. A portrait of Mrs. Banks is given in 'Manchester Faces and Places' (iv. 41).

She occasionally lectured, and despite delicate health worked hard throughout her life. Mrs. Banks had a real love of good literature, and took great interest in the Shakespeare tercentenary celebration (1864), on the committee of which her husband was an active and enthusiastic worker. She herself baptised, with water from the Avon, the memorial oak presented by the queen and planted by Samuel Phelps, the actor, on Primrose Hill. Her skill as a designer was considerable; she produced original fancy-work patterns every month for forty-five years.

Other works by Mrs, Banks are: 1. 'Ivy Leaves : a Collection of Poems,' 1844. 2. 'Daisies in the Grass : Songs and Poems ' Twith her husband), 1865. 3, 'Stung to the Quick,' 1867, 3 vols.; 1893. 4, 'Glory: a Wiltshire Story,' 1877, 3 vols.; 1892. 5. 'Ripples and Breakers' (a collection of her later poems), 1878, 1893. 6. 'Caleb Booth's Clerk,' 1878, 3 vols. 7. 'Wooers and Winners: Under the Scars,' 1880, 8 vols. 8. 'More than Coronets,' 1881, 1882, 9. 'Through the Night: Short Stories,' 1882. 10. 'The Watchmaker's Daughter: Short Stories,' 1882. 11. 'Forbidden to Marry,' 1883, 3 vols.; under the title 'Forbidden to Wed,' 1885. 12, 'Sibylla, and other Stories,' 1884, 3 vols. 13. 'In his own Hand,' 1885, 3 vols.; 1887. 14. 'Geoffrey Ollivant's Folly,' 1886, 15. 'A Rough Road,' 1892, 16. 'Bond-slaves,' 1893, 17. 'The Slowly Grinding Mills,' 1893, 3 vols, 18. 'The Bridge of Beauty,' 1894. A uniform edition of the novels was commenced in 1881, but only three volumes were published.

[Manchester Faces and Places, iv. 40 (December 1892); Biograph, 1879, i. 200-7; Manchester Guardian, 6 May 1897; Allibone's Dict. Suppl, i. 87-8; Times, 6 May 1897; Men of the Time, 14th ed. p. 50.]

E. L.