Frances Maria Edgeworth. Her name may sound familiar to enthusiasts of early nineteenth century literature and to those of our followers who reside in Longford. She was indeed the sister of famed novelist Maria Edgeworth, a contemporary of Jane Austen and author of such novels as Belinda and Patronage.
Frances was the daughter of Richard Edgeworth (1744 – 1818) and Frances Anne Edgeworth (neé Beaufort). Frances Anne was Richard’s fourth wife.
Richard was one of the original members of the Royal Irish Academy. He was also a pioneer in new methods of education, pioneering these practises in the education of his 22 children. Richard and Maria’s interest in education resulted in a number of publications, the first Practical Education (1780), followed in 1808 by Professional Education, which bore his name but was written largely by Maria. Richard was an advocate of Catholic Emancipation and a resident landlord, who used his engineering knowledge to improve the lands his tenants worked.
Frances was the seventeenth child out of the 22. Her mother, Frances Anne Beaufort was a botanical artist and met Richard when she created some illustrations for Maria Edgeworth’s children’s book ‘The Parent’s Assistant’.
Frances Anne was one year older than Maria and the two became close friends. When Frances, or Fanny as she came to be known by her family, was born on June 5th, 1799, Maria wrote joyfully of her birth:
‘At nine minutes before six this evening, to my great joy, my little sister Fanny came into the world.’
Maria and Fanny spent much time together, Fanny accompanied Maria on many of her journeys to Europe.
She was described by Lady Stafford as having:
‘a most intelligent countenance; she is much more than pretty ; and what I so like is her manner of answering when she is asked any question —so unlike the Missy style. She has been admirably well educated’.
This education had no doubt been provided by Maria herself, who records spending much time in the little girls company.
In 1829, Frances married Lestock Peach Wilson, a captain for the East India Company. Maria wrote of the marriage:
‘Fanny Edgeworth is now Fanny Wilson; I can hardly believe it! She is gone! I feel it, and long must feel it, with anguish, selfish anguish. But she will be happy – of that I have the most firm, delightful conviction; and therefore all that I cannot help now feeling is, I know, only surface feeling, and will soon pass away. The more I have seen and known of Lestock, the more I like him and love him, and am convinced I shall always love him, whose every word and look bears the stamp and value of sincerity.’
Frances and Lestock lived at no. 1 North Audley Street in London. Lestock was elected sub-Governor of London Assurance on 23 April 1845, a company providing marine insurance, eventually becoming a subsidiary of the Sun Alliance in 1965.
Frances died at the home of her uncle, Rear Admiral Beaufort on April 4th, 1848.