E. Owens Blackburne

In email “conversation” with Elizabeth today, I was curious to see again the early writing (published in 1877) on the Ladies of Llangollen by E. Owens Blackburne (the pen-name for Elizabeth Casey). I checked books.google for the two volumes, and have added those links to the BIBLIOGRAPHY page. Then, curious about the writer, I searched for information on E. Owens Blackburne / Elizabeth Casey. I found biographical entries written by her, and this notice on books.google of FIVE LETTERS written by her to Bram Stoker in 1880!

The Slane Times, in a write-up by Nicholas Wells, has a nice bio of the woman referred to as “Novelist, Poet, Biographer and Feminist”. She was born in Slane (County Meath), in 1845. By 1856 an eye ailment caused Elizabeth to lose her sight, for eight long years! Sir William Wilde (father of Oscar) restored her sight. In 1869, Elizabeth began to see her writings — under the name E. Owens Blackburne — in print. She graduated from Trinity College, Dublin in 1873 — and moved to London to continue to write and publish. Of Illustrious Irishwomen, Wells says: “Both her choice of subjects for the two volumes and her meticulous detail in the recording of their endeavours, show her taste in selection and her skill in research.” Her use of Mrs Goddard’s diary was indeed “a first”. Elizabeth’s life came to a tragic end in a house fire in 1894, a month short of her 49th birthday. Her novels — she published twenty — have Irish settings. I’m pretty sure I found Illustrious Irishwomen at my local university, but on microfilm! It was in the days before the likes of books.google or Internet Archive. Wells nicely summarizes Blackburne’s novels, so do take a moment to read the full bio. Women writers, whether novelists or biographers or both – as in Blackburne’s case – deserve our attention.

In looking up her Illustrious Irishwomen, I found this as her opening sentence in the chapter on actress Mrs Jordan (in vol. 1):

“Dorothy Jordan
Born A.D., 1762.   Died A.D., 1816.

Yet another victim to Royal caprice and selfishness!”

Only a strong-minded woman would dare such a statement. Mrs Jordan being, of course, the mother of a number of children fathered by the Duke of Clarence (later: King William IV). My Emma Smith had met one of the Fitzclarence daughters, at the seaside. Small World. Miss O’Neill also appears (vol. 1), as does the likes of Susanna Centlivre and Mrs Mary Tighe (both: vol. 2).

Useful links:

I’d LOVE a portrait of her, if anyone comes across a drawing or even a photo!


Blackburne’s Ladies


One of my greatest “finds” was E. Owen Blackburne’s Illustrious Irishwomen, in two volumes, published in 1877. I copied — as faithfully as possible — the lengthy chapter on the Ladies of Llangollen.

Thanks to Roger’s interest (see his comments on the Bibliography page), I’ve put a few image links back in the bibliography, and copied the text and images for Blackburne’s biography.

It’s been a while since I read this, but I recall being *impressed* with how much of the story Blackburne got right! There was just so much out there that was supposition — even downright wrong — about the Ladies. That was how I found Mary Gosling‘s early travel diary: it was in looking up first-hand information about the Ladies that I came across the diary’s catalogue entry at Duke University: Mary and family MET the Ladies, were even shown around Plas Newydd!

The online version is a bit rough around the edges – but it’s the content that counts! Find the chapter here.

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