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COUSIN MARY

Mary Russell Mitford

Mary Russell Mitford (1787-1855), poet, sketch-writer, short-story writer and dramatist, was born in Hampshire. She won a £20,000 lottery at the age of 10, enabling her father to build a house near Reading and to educate her at the prestigious Hans Place School in London. Her first publications were volumes of poetry (1810, 1812 and 1813). The family moved to a cottage in a small Berkshire village after her father’s compulsive gambling had reduced the family to poverty again. In 1819 she began publishing ‘sketches’ of village life in the Lady’s Magazine. Hugely successful (the magazine’s sales were increased from 250 to 2,000), these were collected in five volumes as Our Village (1824-32). Several similar works followed, as well as a number of plays, but none of her work equalled the continuing success of Our Village. She never married, but had a large circle of literary friends, with whom she carried on a lively correspondence. One of her last works was Recollections of a Literary Life (1852).