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MOORE, FRANCES (Brooke), author; baptized 24 Jan. 1724 in Claypole, Lincolnshire, England, daughter of the Reverend Thomas Moore, curate of Claypole, and Mary Knowles; m. c. 1756 the Reverend John Brooke, and they had one son, and probably a daughter; d. 23 Jan. 1789 at Sleaford, Lincolnshire, England.
Frances Moore spent her childhood and adolescence in the various country rectories of clerical relatives. On her father’s death in 1727 she moved with her mother and her younger sister Sarah to the rectory of her maternal grandparents at Peterborough. When their mother died the two sisters went to live with an aunt and uncle at the latter’s rectory of Tydd St Mary (Lincolnshire).
By 1748 Frances had left this family home; in the 1750s she was writing poetry and plays and was reported to be moving in the literary circle of the novelist Samuel Richardson. She first attracted literary attention with her editorship, under the pseudonym, “Mary Singleton, Spinster,” of a weekly periodical, The old maid, which appeared from 15 Nov. 1755 to 24 July 1756. In the vein of the Spectator of Addison and Steele, the journal included essays and letters written in a lively style commenting on theatre, politics, society, and religion. The old maid was to be reprinted in volume form in 1764. In 1756 Frances published a number of poems and a play, Virginia, which was never produced. By that summer she had married John Brooke, rector of Colney, Norfolk, and several parishes in Norwich, who left for North America in 1757 as a military chaplain.
Three years later Frances published The letters of Lady Juliet Catesby, to her friend Lady Henrietta Campley, a translation of Marie-Jeanne Riccoboni’s epistolary novel first published in French in 1759; at least six editions of this popular work appeared during Mrs Brooke’s lifetime. Her own first novel, The history of Lady Julia Mandeville, also epistolary, appeared in 1763 and it was reprinted eight times before her death. Julia Mandeville departs from the conventional novel of sensibility in its portrayal of a witty, intelligent feminist in the character of Julia’s friend, Anne Wilmot. It shows the influence of Frances’ husband, chaplain at Quebec since 1760, in its opposition to a proposal that the British leave Canada to France in exchange for Guadeloupe, and in its suggested guiding principles for governing the colony. “Canada, considered merely as the possession of it gives security to our colonies, is of more national consequence to us than all the Sugar-islands on the globe: but if the present inhabitants are encouraged to stay, by the mildness of our laws, and that full liberty of conscience to which every rational creature has a right; if they are taught, by every honest art, a love for that constitution which makes them free, and a personal attachment to the best of Princes; if they are allured to our religious worship, by seeing it in its genuine beauty, equally remote from their load of trifling ceremonies and the unornamented forms of the dissenters: if population is encouraged; the waste lands settled; and a whale fishery set on foot, we shall find it, considered in every light, an acquisition beyond our most sanguine hopes!”
By 1763 Mrs Brooke was a writer of some note, included in the literary circle surrounding Samuel Johnson. In July of that year she sailed for Quebec to join her husband. Although she made at least one trip to England in 1764, returning late in 1765, she is thought to have lived in Quebec until her husband’s return to England three years later. Frances and her sister Sarah, who had accompanied her to Canada, participated in the social life around Governor Murray and such men as Attorney General Francis Maseres*, who described her in 1766 as “a very sensible agreeable woman, of a very improved understanding and without any pedantry or affectation”; Henry Caldwell*, Murray’s land agent and later receiver general of Lower Canada; Adam Mabane, a member of the Council of Quebec who is thought to have been related to James Thomson, author of The seasons; and George Allsopp*, a leader of the merchant group in its political opposition to Murray. The governor, who found John Brooke irascible, with a tendency to be politically and socially meddlesome, had hoped that the presence of Frances and her sister “would have wrought a change” in the chaplain, but found that “on the contrary they meddle more than he does.”
While in Canada Frances Brooke wrote The history of Emily Montague, published in England in 1769. The novel employs the epistolary style of Julia Mandeville, and voices the author’s experience of Quebec and her observations of its society, politics, religion, and natural surroundings. Most of the letters are written by Colonel Ed Rivers, Emily Montague’s lover, and by Arabella Fermor, her friend and confidante. The character of Colonel Rivers is reputed to be modelled on Henry Caldwell and that of Arabella Fermor on Anna Marie Bondfield, the wife of George Allsopp. Arabella Fermor is also, it might be noted, the name of the young lady to whom Alexander Pope addressed The Rape of the Lock; Belinda, the central character of Pope’s poem, is a beautiful and frivolous coquette; Mrs Brooke’s Arabella is an intelligent and witty one. The plot of Emily Montague, sentimental and romantic, revolves around a courtship and its complications. A disparity between the two central viewpoints – that of the conventional, rather prosaic man of sensibility and that of the witty, lively, and perceptive woman – contributes to the tension of the novel. The setting of much of the action is Sillery, where at Mount Pleasant the Brookes lived in a former Jesuit mission house. Canada is first perceived by the English characters as a wilderness. One who tames it, however, will participate in creation, for he will “see order and beauty gradually rise from chaos.” Detailed descriptions are given of Montmorency Falls in summer and winter, of the breakup of ice on the rivers in spring, of the immensity of the St Lawrence, and of Quebec and its surroundings viewed from the river. Winter is a season of cheerfulness and festivity in which the bitterness of the cold is offset by balls, sightseeing expeditions, and carriole races across the snow.
In general Mrs Brooke’s English characters find the Canadian women beautiful, vivacious, and charming, but lacking in the important English virtue of sensibility – until a young widow from Kamouraska demonstrates that sensibility is not solely a British quality. Country girls, too, are charming, but the men are often described as “indolent,” although hospitable and courteous. Indians are remarked as disdainful of rank or riches, and at one point Indian government and way of life are described at length. Indian women meet with more approval than men, and their role in selecting leaders is contrasted with the lack of power of European women.
The religion of the French inhabitants is of considerable interest to the British, and the comparative severity of the different religious orders and attractiveness of their costumes are noted. Individual members of religious orders are much admired. The superior of the Ursulines, a character resembling Sister Esther-Marie-Joseph de l’Enfant-Jésus [Esther Wheelwright], is described by Rivers as “one of the most amiable women I ever knew, with a benevolence in her countenance which inspires all who see her with affection; I am very fond of her conversation, tho’ sixty and a nun.”
A series of 13 letters in the novel, written by Sir William Fermor to a senior member of the British government, comment on the religion, politics, and character of the French inhabitants. Fermor foresees and endorses assimilation through the teaching of English, and through the provision of a liberal education, which would lessen the impact of a “superstitious” religion. He recommends that, although freedom of worship be allowed, “the inhabitants be gently led by reason to a religion which is not only preferable as being that of the country to which they are now annexed, but which is much more calculated to make them happy and prosperous as a people.” The Brookes were themselves viewed as adherents of the English party, composed largely of British merchants operating from Quebec and Montreal, who in the interests of their commerce sought to have Quebec assimilated politically, socially, and economically into the British empire. Frances makes a point of indicating in her novel that politics is outside the realm of women; according to Adam Mabane, however, “particular Attention is paid to Mrs Brookes [by the English party] either from fear of her bad Tongue, or from Gratitude for the good offices” she was able to render “at the Tea Tables of London.” It is likely, nonetheless, that John Brooke was the principal source of the reports and attitudes contained in William Fermor’s letters.
Mrs Brooke’s English characters leave Canada with regret. Arabella, who in November viewed Quebec as “like a third or fourth rate country town in England,” by June has decided, “I had rather live at Quebec, take it for all in all, than in any town in England, except London: the manner of living here is uncommonly agreeable: the scenes about us are lovely, and the mode of amusements makes us taste those scenes in full perfection.” Mrs Brooke herself returned to England with her husband late in 1768. Her younger contemporary Fanny Burney, another author in Johnson’s literary circle, met her in February 1774, and in her diary recorded her first impression that “Mrs. Brooke is very short and fat, and squints; but has the art of showing agreeable ugliness. She is very well bred, and expresses herself with much modesty upon all subjects; which in an authoress, a woman of known understanding, is extremely pleasing.”
In the 20 years following her return to England and publication of Emily Montague, Frances Brooke published two translations, wrote one tragedy, and wrote the libretti for two comic operas, of which Rosina, produced at Covent Garden in 1782, was an instant success both on stage and in printed form. About 1773 she had become, with her close friend, the great tragic actress Mary Ann Yates, joint manager of the Haymarket Opera House. This venture lasted for several years, but seems to have been, financially at any rate, not entirely a success. Frances published at least two more novels, The excursion in 1777, similar in theme to Fanny Burney’s Evelina, published the following year, and The history of Charles Mandeville, published posthumously in 1790 and continuing the earlier Julia Mandeville. She may also have been the author of All’s right at last; or, the history of Miss West, published in 1774, an epistolary novel set largely in Canada. Although hastily written, with several errors in fact, the novel has themes, attitudes, and elements of style that suggest Frances Brooke as possible author; it contains a number of lively letters by Canadian correspondents, absent from Emily Montague, and provides another record, this time including Montreal and Trois-Rivières, of British upper-class society in 18th-century Canada. By 1787 Mrs Brooke had moved to Sleaford with her son, John, then vicar of Helpringham and rector of Folkingham. Here on 23 Jan. 1789 she died, two days after her husband, apparently “of a spasmodic complaint.”
Frances Brooke was a celebrated member of London’s literary circle, respected for her skills as novelist, dramatist, translator, and essayist. In fiction, she contributed to the 18th-century novel of sensibility, to a renewed interest in the epistolary form, and to the newer movement toward realism in the novel. Her most successful opera, Rosina, continues to be of interest. Both Julia Mandeville and Emily Montague have been reprinted in this century. Mrs Brooke indicates her feminist stance through the wit, humour, and independent mind of the central women characters of these two novels. Her major contribution to Canadian literature remains the first novel written in North America, Emily Montague, which conveys with grace, wit, intelligence, and perception what it meant to experience Canada in the 18th century.
Frances Moore wrote several novels published in London; in Canada the best known of her works is The history of Emily Montague, in four volumes, by the author of Lady Julia Mandeville (1769). This novel was republished in London in 1777, 1784, and 1800; in Canada it first appeared in Ottawa (in 1931, with an introduction and notes by Lawrence Johnston Burpee* and an appendix by Frederick Philip Grove*) and then in Toronto (in 1961, with an introduction by Carl Frederick Klinck). It also appeared as Histoire d’Émilie Montague, par l’auteur de “Julie Mandeville”, J.-B.-R. Robinet, trad. (4v. in 2, Amsterdam, 1770), and Historie van Emelia Montague, door den schryver van “Lady Julia Mandeville” (2v., Amsterdam, 1783). In 1770 another French version appeared in Paris under the title Histoire d’Émilie Montague, par M. Brooke, imitée de l’anglois par M. Frenais; it was followed in 1809 by Voyage dans le Canada, ou histoire de Miss Montaigu, translated by “T.G.M.” All’s right at last; or, the history of Miss West (2v., London, 1774), another novel which takes place largely in Canada, has been attributed to Frances Moore. It was translated as Histoire de Miss West, ou l’heureux dénouement, par Mme ***, auteur de “L’histoire d’Émilie Montagu” (2v. in 1, Rotterdam, 1777).
ANQ-Q, AP-G-313/2, George Allsopp à A. M. Allsopp, 12 mars 1785. AUQ, Journal, 2, avril-mai, août-sept. 1767; Livre des entrées et sorties des pensionnaires, 1766. Lincolnshire Archives Office (Lincoln, Eng.), Claypole, Bishop’s transcript of the register of christenings, marriages and burials, 24 Jan. 1724; Sleaford, Register of burials, 27 Jan. 1789; Stubton Deposit, 3E/5/D6, F6. QDA, 82 (D-1), memoir of 1764 concerning John Brooke. PAC, MG 23, GII, 1, ser. 1, 2, pp.21, 44–46, 184–85. “Anecdotes of Mrs Frances Brooke,” European Magazine and London Rev. (London), XV (1789), 99–101. Critical Rev., or Annals of Literature (London), XVI (1763), 41–45. The early diary of Frances Burney, 1768–1778; with a selection from her correspondence, and from the journal of her sisters Susan and Charlotte Burney, ed. A. R. Ellis (2v., London, 1889), I, 273. Gentleman’s Magazine, 1789, 90. [William Johnson], Lincolnshire church notes made by William Johnson, FSA, 1828–1840 . . . , ed. W. J. Manson, 9th Baron Manson ([Hereford, Eng.], 1936), 316–17. Literary anecdotes of the eighteenth century; comprising biographical memoirs of William Bowyer and many of his learned friends . . . , ed. John Nichols (9v., London, 1812–15), II, 346–47. Maseres, Maseres letters (Wallace), 46. “Stubton strong room – stray notes (2nd series); Moore and Knowles families – two sisters,” ed. Edmund Royds, Associated Architectural Societies of Lincoln, Reports and Papers (Lincoln, Eng.), 38 (1926–27), 213–312. Theatre, Haymarket (3v., n.p., [1757–1829]), Haymarket Theatre, 1765. Public Advertiser (London), 23 May 1788. Quebec Gazette, 8 Nov. 1764, 14 July 1768.
DNB. André Bernier, Le Vieux-Sillery ([Québec], 1977), 21–22. Bernard Dufebvre [Émile Castonguay], Cinq femmes et nous (Québec, 1950), 30. John Genest, Some account of the English stage from the restoration in 1660 to 1830 (10v., Bath, Eng., 1832), VI, 191–92. P.-A. Lamontagne et Robert Rumilly, L’histoire de Sillery, 1630–1950 (Sillery, Qué., 1952), 27. J. M. LeMoine, Maple leaves: history, biography, legend, literature, memoirs, etc. (7 ser., Quebec, 1863–1906), VII, 83. G. S. Marr, Periodical essayists of the eighteenth century, with illustrative extracts from the rarer periodicals (New York, 1970), 162–63. C. S. Blue, “Canada’s first novelist,” Canadian Magazine (Toronto), LVIII (1921–22), 3–12. Desmond Pacey, “The first Canadian novel,” Dal. Rev., XXVI (1946–47), 143–50.
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Cite This Article
Lorraine McMullen, “MOORE, FRANCES,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 2, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/moore_frances_4E.html.
The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:
|Author of Article:||Lorraine McMullen|
|Title of Article:||MOORE, FRANCES|
|Publication Name:||Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4|
|Publisher:||University of Toronto/Université Laval|
|Year of publication:||1979|
|Year of revision:||1979|
|Access Date:||June 2, 2023|