Jane and Anna Maria Porter
English Romantic Novelists
Jane and Anna Maria Porter were English romantic novelists of Irish descent whose works have been translated into several foreign languages and gained for them some measure of success. Though Anna Marie began her writing career first, it was Jane whose fame lasted throughout the centuries.
Their father was an Irish officer; a surgeon in the Irish army, who died when the girls were quite young. Having been born in the late eighteenth century, their father’s death left the family with limited means for their support and education. Mrs. Porter moved the family, which included the two girls and two sons, to Edinburgh , Scotland for the education of her children. It was here that Walter Scott, then a student in college, became a fast friend of the family, and often entertained the little girls with stories of “witches and warlocks”. The family later moved to Ireland and then again to London , all chiefly due to educational opportunities.
Both girls became writers. The first sister that began a writing career was Anna Maria, who began to write at a the very young age of thirteen. She continued writing for the rest of her life and altogether produced over fifty volumes. Among her greatest works were “The Lakes of Killarney”, “A Sailor’s Friendship and a Soldier’s Love”, “The Hungarian Brothers”, about the French Revolution, “Don Sebastian”, “Ballad Romances and other Poems” and “The Knight of St. John”, which was a joint work with her sister. Though she was a prolific writer, if asked, not many would be able to recall even one of her works today.
On the other hand, Miss Jane Porter became the author of two well known books, “Thaddeus of Warsaw” and “The Scottish Chiefs”, the first being considered the better book. “The Scottish Chiefs” is not a correct representation of national life and manners with the patriot William Wallace is represented as too much of a drawing-room hero. The book, however, has been widely read and was vert picturesque. “Thaddeus of Warsaw” has gained Jane Porter admission as lady canoness into the “Teutonic Order of St. Joachim”. Jane also wrote “The Pastor’s Fireside”, “Duke Christian of Luneburg ”, and “Tales Round a Winter’s Hearth”, which she co-authored with Maria. Though her novels were a success, her stage tragedy “ Switzerland was a complete failure.
Sir Robert Ker Porter was their brother who was about a year older than Jane. He was an artist of some measure of success whose best productions were battle pieces. His “Storming of Seringapatam” was a painting that was 120 feet long. He went to Russia in 1804 and became painter to the czar. While he was there, Jane spent some time with him in St. Petersburg .
We should be careful to give honor to the mother of this family for the careful training of her four children. The two girls and their brother Robert attained eminence in artistic and literary lines and the eldest son, William became a doctor. This was no small accomplishment for a mother who was left practically destitute with a young family to care for both physically, emotionally, and financially.