Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Fothergill, Jessie

1386290Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement, Volume 2 — Fothergill, Jessie1901Bertha Porter

FOTHERGILL, JESSIE (1851–1891), novelist, was eldest child of Thomas Fothergill and of Anne his wife, daughter of William and Judith Coultate of Burnley. She was born in June 1851 at Cheetham Hill, Manchester, but removed when quite young to Bowdon in Cheshire, ten miles from Manchester. Her father, who was engaged in the cotton industry, died in 1866, and shortly after Jessie Fothergill, with her mother, sisters, and brothers removed to Littleborough, near Rochdale. Jessie was educated first in a small private school in Bowdon, and afterwards for some years in a boarding school at Harrogate. When her education was completed she lived quietly at Littleborough, studying the life led by the workers in the cotton mills. She paid a first visit to Germany in 1874. On her return to England she published her first novel, 'Healey,' in 1875. Thenceforth she devoted herself to literary work. In 1877 she achieved a notable success with her third novel, 'The First Violin.' The latter years of her life were spent chiefly abroad. She passed the winter of 1890-1 in Rome, and died at Berne on 28 July 1891. A good portrait of her was published in Speight's 'Romantic Richmondshire' (1897).

Miss Fothergill's novels largely depict life on the moorland, in the factories of Lancashire and Yorkshire; but she combined with the fruits of her observation of the places where her life was mainly spent, enthusiastic descriptions of the influence of music. 'Cotton mills and music, manufacturing England and Germany' were the chief subjects of her pen (Novel Review, May 1892, p. 155). Her plots were rather less satisfactorily devised than her studies of character, which were usually subtly and powerfully portrayed.

She published (all in London) : 1. 'Healey,' 1875, 1884. 2. 'Aldyth,' 1876, 1877, 1891. 3. 'The First Violin,' 1877, 1878, 1879. 4. The Wellfields,' 1880 (Holt's ' Leisure Hour'Ser.), 1881. 5. 'Kith and Kin,' 1881, 1882. 6. 'Made or Marred,' 1881 (Bentley's Empire Library). 7. 'One of Three,' 1881 (Bentley's Empire Library). 8. 'Peril,' 1884. 9. ' Borderland,' 1886, 1887. 10. 'The Lasses of Leverhouse,' 1888. 11. 'From Moor Isles,' 1888, 1894. 12. 'A March in the Ranks,' 1890, 1891. 13. 'Oriole's Daughter,' 1893. A dramatised version of the 'First Violin,' by Sidney Bowkett, was produced at the Crown Theatre, Peckham, on 27 March 1899. A portion of the same work is printed in 'The Library of Famous Literature,' vol. xx. 1900.

[Speight's Romantic Richmondshire, pp. 478 et seq. For information as to literary work, see Manchester Quarterly, 1883, ii. 291-2; The Dial, Chicago, 1880, i. 135 ; The Novel Review, May 1892, pp. 153-60; private information; personal recollection.]

B. P.