Authors: Mary Russell Mitford

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

English short-story writer, playwright, and poet

Author Works

Short Fiction:

Our Village: Sketches of Rural Character and Scenery, 1824-1832

Belford Regis: Or, Sketches of a Country Town, 1835

Country Stories, 1837

Atherton, and Other Tales, 1854


Julian, pr., pb. 1823

The Foscari, pb. 1826

Rienzi, pb. 1828

Charles the First, pb. 1834


Verses, 1806

Poems, 1810

Christina, the Maid of the South Seas, 1811

Blanche of Castile, 1812

Watlington Hill, 1812


Mary Russell Mitford was the only child of George Mitford, a country physician who was better known as a gambler and spendthrift than as a practitioner of medicine. This man had, apparently, the charm to inspire an attitude of unquestioning adoration in his frail but talented daughter. A single-minded devotion to her father stands out as the main theme of Mitford’s personal life and as the direct practical motivation of her writing, for in an attempt to recoup the second fortune squandered by her father she turned from the unprofitable composition of poems to the writing of those discerning sketches of rural life that remain her most important contribution to literature.{$I[AN]9810000067}{$I[A]Mitford, Mary Russell}{$I[geo]WOMEN;Mitford, Mary Russell}{$I[geo]ENGLAND;Mitford, Mary Russell}{$I[tim]1787;Mitford, Mary Russell}

The first squandered fortune had been her mother’s; the second had been her own, the winnings from the lottery ticket her father had given her on her tenth birthday. This prize of twenty thousand pounds had provided both for her father’s ostentatious living and for her own education at a French school in London, 1798-1802, where Mitford distinguished herself in the study of Romance literature.

By 1822, when the lottery winnings had been dissipated, Mitford ceased writing long sentimental poems and began a professional literary campaign on two fronts. Her first play, Julian, was produced in 1823, and in 1819 the first series of her rural sketches appeared in the Ladies’ Magazine. Three more plays saw production in the next twelve years. The sketches were published in book form in 1824, as Our Village: Sketches of Rural Character and Scenery, and four more volumes were added to the series by 1832. She edited a collection of American sketches in 1832, published Belford Regis: Or, Sketches of a Country Town, another series of sketches based on the pattern of Our Village, in 1835, and ended her career with Atherton, and Other Tales in 1854.

During these years she remained unmarried and in poor health. Her father, who lived until she was fifty-six, claimed all her affection as well as all her support; she survived him by only eleven years, dying at Swallowfield on January 10, 1855.

BibliographyEdwards, Peter David. Idyllic Realism from Mary Russell Mitford to Hardy. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1988.Horn, Pamela. “Alresford and Mary Russell Mitford.” Hatcher Review 3, no. 22 (Autumn, 1986).Hunter, Shelagh. Victorian Idyllic Fiction: Pastoral Strategies. Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1984.Mitford, Mary Russell. The Letters of Mary Russell Mitford. Selected with an introduction by R. Brimley Johnson. 1925. Reprint. Folcroft, Pa.: Folcroft Library Editions, 1977.Mitford, Mary Russell, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Mary Russell Mitford, 1836-1854, edited by Meredith B. Raymond and Mary Rose Sullivan. 3 vols. Waco, Tex.: Armstrong Browning Library of Baylor University, 1983.Owen, J. C. “Utopia in Little: Mary Russell Mitford and Our Village.” Studies in Short Fiction 5 (1968).Pigrome, Stella. “Mary Russell Mitford.” Charles Lamb Bulletin 66 (April, 1989).
Categories: Authors