Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Eastlake, Elizabeth

EASTLAKE, ELIZABETH, Lady (1809–1893), authoress, born at Norwich on 17 Nov. 1809, was the fifth child and fourth daughter of Dr. Edward Rigby [q. v.] by his second wife, Anne (1777–1872), daughter of William Palgrave of Yarmouth. Edward Rigby [q. v.], the obstetrician, was her brother. After her father's death in 1821 she went to reside with her mother at Framingham, near Norwich, until in 1827 she went with her family for a sojourn of over two years at Heidelberg, where she acquired a thorough knowledge of German. In 1836, after another visit to Germany, she wrote a solid but unfriendly article on 'Goethe' for the 'Foreign Quarterly Review.' In October 1838 she went to Reval in Russia upon a long visit to a married sister, and upon her return, early in 1841, the letters written thence to her mother were accepted for publication by Murray, and issued anonymously in two volumes as 'A Residence on Shores of Baltic.' The book was fresh written, proved attractive, and went through several editions under the slightly altered title, 'Letters from the Shores of the Baltic.'

The letters served as an introduction to Lockhart, and in April 1842 Miss Rigby appeared as a writer for the 'Quarterly' upon 'Jesse, Kohl, and Sterling on Russia.' In the same year she accompanied her mother to new home at Edinburgh, where she had in reductions from the Murrays, and was introduced to the circle of Christopher North John Wilson) as one of the right sort. She continued to write for the 'Quarterly,' her articles on 'Evangelical Novels' and 'Children's Books,' on 'German Life,' and on Lady Travellers' being widely appreciated, 'n 18*44 she went to London on a visit to the Murrays in Albemarle Street, met Caryle and disagreed with his calling Luther a nice man,' and saw something of Miss Strickland and Miss Edgeworth. In May 1844 she left London for another visit to Russia. 'The Jewess' had appeared in 1843, and in 1846 she again drew upon her Russian experiences for 'Livonian Tales.' Returning to Edinburgh she worked conscientiously upon 'Quarterly' articles (including in 1846 German Painting' and 'Cologne Cathedral'), and attracted in December 1848 much attention by one in which she attacked Jane Eyre as a vulgar though powerful work of 'an anti-Christian' tendency. She preferred to think that the novel was by a man, the alternative supposition being that it was the work of a woman who 'for some sufficient reason had forfeited the society of her own sex.' Elsewhere she expressed her conviction that Currer, Acton, and Ellis Bell were three Lancashire brothers of the weaving order. In January 1849 she became engaged to Sir Charles Lock Eastlake [q. v.], whose acquaintance she had made at the Murrays'; she was then forty, while he was fifty-six. The marriage took place on 9 April 1849, when the wedded pair settled at 7 Fitzroy Square. Her handsome, regular features, and magnificent figure (she was within an inch of six feet high) are to be traced henceforth in several of Eastlake's compositions.

In February 1850 Lady Eastlake first heard Macaulay talk all dinner 'at the Longmans', and among those whom she met at this time and deftly individualised in her journals were Sir Robert Peel, the Duke of Wellington, Samuel Rogers, Cobden, Dr. Waagen, Ruskin, the Miss Berrys, Mrs. Norton, and, a little later, Charles Dickens, 'whose company I always enjoy.' In 1852 she had reprinted two articles from the 'Quarterly' on 'Music and the Art of Dress' (London, 8vo), and in the same year she accompanied her husband to Italy, an expedition repeated annually until his death, and varied by subsidiary excursions to France, the Low Countries, Germany, and Spain. At the close of the year, her interest in art having been quickened by her tour, on which she made a number of first-rate sketches (she avowed to Lockhart in defiance of his counsel that she should continue to prefer the pencil to the pen), she began her valuable translation of Waagen's 'Treasures of Art in Great Britain' (1854-7, 4 vols.) In November, to her sister in Ceylon, she wrote a vivid account of Wellington's funeral. In 1854 she met Kingsley, 'a pale, thin man, who stammers,' and Mrs. Grote, 'the cleverest woman in London,' with whom she struck up an intimate and lasting friendship, and whose biographer she eventually became.

In October 1854 Sir Charles Eastlake accepted the directorship of the National Gallery, after an official wrangle with Lord Aberdeen, which his wife described with much humour. In the 'Quarterly' for March 1856, in a review of 'Modern Painters,' she refuted 'Ruskin's elementary errors' about the principles of art. In March 1860 she accepted from Longmans the commission of completing Mrs. Jameson's 'History of our Lord in Works of Art,' to which she devoted all her energies. Her volume was published in March 1864, and the work was reviewed by Lady Eastlake herself in the 'Quarterly' for July. Her diaries show that she now began to see more of Gladstone, at whose house she met Garibaldi, and of Jowett, 'a happy, gentle, grey-haired young man, very agreeable indeed, and very amiable.'

In December 1865 her husband died at Pisa. She published anonymously, in March 1868, 'Fellowship,: Letters addressed to my Sister Mourners,' a book which attracted Queen Victoria (to whom the secret of the authorship was revealed), and won the writer many friends and warm appreciation. Next year she finished the editing of 'Contributions to the Literature of the Fine Arts by Sir C. L. Eastlake: with a Memoir compiled by Lady Eastlake' (1870, 8vo), while almost simultaneously was published her 'Life of John Gibson, R.A., Sculptor' (London, 1870, 8vo). Her opinions upon the Franco-German war are interesting from their singularity in one who knew Germany so well as she did. Her position in court circles in England gave her the entrie at Wilhelmshohe, where she dined with the crown prince and princess and was frequently received. In 1874 she accomplished a work for which her 'exceptional acquaintance with art specially qualified her,' the remodelling of her husband's edition of Kugler's ' Handbook of Painting: Italian Schools,' for the earlier translation of which, in 1851, she had been mainly responsible. In January 1876 she wrote her instructive article on ' The Two Amperes 'for the 'Edinburgh Review,' and followed it up by one on 'Bastiat' (April 1879). After her husband's death John Forster and Sir Henry Layard appear to have been her main literary confidants and advisers.

The death of Forster distressed her only less than that of Mrs. Grote, the 'Sketch' of whose 'Life' she brought out in 1880. About the same time a perusal of her father's letters caused her to prepare a section of them for publication. They were those relating to the events of July 1789 in Paris, and Rigby's subsequent tour through the south of France and Germany ; these were issued in 1880, and were welcomed by students as an interesting supplement to Arthur Young. The study of the period induced an enthusiasm for De Tocqueville, and she was next led 'to read and think about' Mme. de Stael, in whom she saw a compound of Johnson and Macaulay, and upon whom she wrote in the 'Quarterly' for July 1881. The train of study did not stop here, but resulted further in the 'Jacobin Conquest' (Quarterly, January 1882), the victory of a political association, with which she was inclined to compare the Irish land league. She was full of admiration for Morelli's work upon the Italian masters, and renewed her studies of Raphael, but was horribly disgusted by the 'Rossetti Exhibition' of 1883. 'Some of the women look as if they were going to be hanged, wringing their hands and poking out their chins ; others look as if they had been hanged and were partially decomposed.' As a relief from these 'cadaverous bodies and sensual mouths' she turned to the old masters, and republished in 1883 essays on 'Five Great Painters' (London, 2 vols. 8vo) ; the five being Raphael, Michelangelo, Titian, Leonardo, and Diirer. During 1886 she was translating Professor Brandl's 'Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the English Romantic School' (London, 8vo), which was published in March 1887, and was followed by an able article by her hand in the 'Quarterly,' to which, during the next two years, she contributed her fascinating ' Reminiscences of Samuel Rogers,' her 'Art in Venice' and 'Russia,' and somewhat later, in July 1891, her last article on Morelli. Her 'Reminiscences of Edinburgh' in the forties appeared in 'Longman's Magazine' as late as January 1893.

She died at her house in Fitzroy Square, where she had collected round her some beautiful works of art, on 2 Oct. 1893, and was buried on 6 Oct. by her husband's side in Kensal Green cemetery. Deeply but not ostentatiously religious, showing in every utterance and action her dislike of the morbid and the peculiar, and of radicalism in politics, Lady Eastlake developed into a typical English grande dame, serene and easy in manner, intellectual and courageous, impervious to bores, highly esteemed and looked up to in the best society in London for wellnigh fifty years.

A portrait after Sir William Boxall, R.A., is prefixed to the 'Journals and Correspondence of Lady Eastlake,' edited by her nephew, Charles Eastlake Smith, 1895, 2 vols.

[Journals and Correspondence, 1895; Times, 3 Oct. 1893; Guardian, 7 Oct. 1893; Kugler's Handbook (ed. Layard), 1887, Introd.; Smiles's A Publisher and his Friends, 1891, ii. 441; Mrs. Gaskell's Life of Charlotte Brontë; Shorter's Charlotte Brontë and her Circle; Allibone's Dict. of Engl. Lit.; Lady Eastlake's Works.]

T. S.