Delariviere Manley (16701724)



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Biographical details

Note: the 19th- and early 20th-century biographies below preserve a historical record. A new biography that reflects 21st-century approaches to the subjects in question is forthcoming.

Dictionary of National Biography (1885–1900)

MANLEY, Mrs. MARY DE LA RIVIERE (1672?–1724), author of the 'New Atalantis,' daughter of Sir Roger Manley [q. v.], was born about 1672 in Jersey, or, ccording to another version, at sea between Jersey and Guernsey. She lost her mother while she was young, and her father, who had literary tastes, does not appear to have taken much care of her. On his death in 1688 he left her 200l. and a share in the residue of the estate. About this time she was drawn into a false marriage by her cousin, John Manley of Truro, whose wife was then living. This cousin was probably the John Manley who was M.P. for Bossiney borough, Cornwell, from 1701 to 1708 and 1710 to 1714, and for Camelford from 1708 to 1710. He died in 1714, and Luttrell mentions a duel he fought with another member (see Key to Mrs. Manley's History, 1725). When he deserted her, Mrs. Manley went to live with the Duchess of Cleveland, who, however, soon quarrelled with her on the pretence that she had intrigued with her son. After two years of retirement, during which she travelled to Exeter and other places, a volume of 'Letters written by Mrs. Manley' was published in 1696. The dedication spoke of the eager contention between the managers of the theatres as to who should first bring her upon the stage, and accordingly we find two plays produced in the same year. The first, a comedy called 'The Lost Lover, or the Jealous Husband.' which was written in seven days and acted at Drury Lane, was not a success: but the second, 'The Royal Mischief,' a tragedy, brought out by Betterton at Lincoln's Inn Field, was more fortunate. Intrigues followed with Sir Thomas Skipworth, of Drury Lane Theatre, and John Tilly, warden of the Fleet; and in 1705 she was concerned with Mary Thompson, a woman of bad character, in an attempt to obtain money from the estate of a man named Pheasant. In order to support the claim, a forged entry of marriage was made in the church register (Steele, Correspondence, ed. Nichols. 1809, ii. 501-2).

'The Secret History of Queen Zarah and the Zararians,' 1705, if it is, as seems probable, properly attributed to her, is the first of her series of volumes dealing with politics and personal scandal in the form of a romance. The species of composition, though new in this precise form to England, had been for some years familiar in France. The book was reprinted, with a second part, 1711, and a French version, with a key, was published at Oxford in 1712. 'Almyna, the Arabian Vow,' a play founded on the beginning of the 'Arabian Nights' Entertainments,' was acted at the Haymarket Theatre on 16 Dec. 1706, and soon afterwards printed, with the date 1707 on the title-page. On 26 May 1709 (Daily Courant) appeared Mrs. Manley's most famous book. 'Secret Memoirs and Manners of Several Persons of Quality, of both Sexes, From the New Atalantis,' and a followed in the same year. This work passed through seven editions, besides a French version printed at the Hague, 1713-16. Swift said of Mrs. Manley's writing that it seemed 'as if she had about two thousand epithets and fine words packed up in a bag, and that she pulled them out by handfuls, and strewed them on her paper, where about once in five hundred times they happen to be right' (Swift to Addison. 22 Aug. 1710). In the 'New Atalantis' Mrs. Manley fully exhibited her taste for intrigue, and impudently slandered many persons of note, especially those of whiggish proclivities. The result was that on 29 Oct. 1709 she was arrested, together with the publishers and printer of the book (Luttrell, Brief Relation, 1857, vi. 505-8, 508, 546). According to another account she acknowledged herself to be the author in order to shield the others. The printer and publishers were released on 1 Nov., and Mrs. Manley was admitted to bail on 5 Nov. The Earl of Sunderland, then secretary of state, endeavoured without success to ascertain from her where she had obtained some of her information; but she said that if there were indeed reflections on particular characters, it must have been by inspiration. She was finally discharged by the court of queen's bench on 13 Feb, 1710. The only reference to the case that can be traced in the Record Office is a memorandum dated 28 Oct. 1709 of the issue of a warrant for the arrest of John Morphew and John Woodward for publishing certain scandalous books, especially the 'New Atalantis' (State Papers, Dom., Anne, 1709, bundle 17, No. 39).

In May 1710 (Tatler, No. 177, 27 May) Mrs. Manley published 'Memoirs of Europe towards the close of the Eighth Century. Written by Eginardus, secretary and favourite to Charlemagne; and done into English by the translator of the "New Atlantis."' This and a second volume which soon followed were afterwards reprinted as the third and fourth volumes of the 'New Atalantis.' The 'Memoirs of Europe' were dedicated to Isaac Bickerstaff, i.e. Richard Steele, whom Mrs. Manley had attacked in the 'New Atalantis.' She in her turn had been attacked by Swift in the 'Tatler' (No. 63), and Steele, when taxed with the authorship, denied that he had written the paper, and acknowledged that he had been indebted to Mrs. Manley in former days. This letter Mrs. Manley now printed, with alterations, and accompanied by fresh charges. In she brought out another book, ‘Court Intrigues, in a Collection of Original Letters from the Island of the New Atalantis.’ The great success and usefulness of the ‘New Atalantis’ are referred to, perhaps satirically, in ‘Atalantis Major,’ 1711, a piece attributed to Defoe.

The return of the tories to power brought better times to Mrs. Manley. In June 1711 she succeeded Swift as editor of the ‘Examiner,’ and in July Swift seconded the application of ‘the poor woman’ to Lord Peterborough for some reward for her service in the cause, ‘by writing her Atalantis and prosecution, &c.’ She had already written in April, by the help of hints from Swift, ‘A True Narrative of what passed at the Examination of the Marquis of Guiscard,’ and later in the year she published other political pamphlets, ‘A Comment on Dr. Hare's Sermon’ and ‘The Duke of M——h's Vindication.’ The last and best of these pieces was, Swift says, entirely Mrs. Manley's work. In January she was very ill with dropsy and a sore leg. Swift wrote: ‘I am heartily sorry for her; she has very generous principles for one of her sort, and a great deal of good sense and invention; she is about forty, very homely, and very fat’ (Journal to Stella, 28 Jan. 1711–12). In May 1713 Steele had an angry correspondence with Swift, and in the ‘Guardian’ (No. 53) attacked Mrs. Manley, who found an opportunity for reply in ‘The Honour and Prerogative of the Queen's Majesty vindicated and defended against the unexampled insolence of the Author of the Guardian,’ published on 14 Aug., and again in ‘A Modest Enquiry into the reasons of the Joy expressed by a certain set of people upon the spreading of a report of Her Majesty's death’ (4 Feb. 1714). ‘The Adventures of Rivella, or the History of the Author of the Atalantis, by Sir Charles Lovemore,’ i.e. Lieutenant-general John Tidcomb, appeared in 1714, and was probably by Mrs. Manley herself. Mrs. Manley's last play, ‘Lucius, the First Christian King of Britain,’ was brought out at Drury Lane on 11 May 1717, and was dedicated to Steele, with full apologies for her previous attacks. Steele, in his turn, wrote a prologue for the play, and Prior contributed an epilogue.

In 1720 Mrs. Manley published ‘The Power of Love, in Seven Novels,’ and verses by her appeared in the same year in Anthony Hammond's ‘New Miscellany of Original Poems.’ One piece, ‘To the Countess of Bristol,’ is given in Nichols's ‘Select Collection’ (1781), vii. 369. Mrs. Manley had for some years been living as the mistress of Alderman Barber, who is said to have treated her unkindly, though he derived assistance from her in various ways. She died at Barber's printing-house, on Lambeth Hill, 11 July 1724, and was buried on the 14th at St. Benet's, Paul's Wharf. In her will (6 Oct. 1723) she is described as of Berkely, Oxfordshire (where she had a house), and as weak and daily decaying in strength. She appointed Cornelia Markendale (her sister) and Henrietta Essex Manley, child's coat maker, late of Covent Garden, but then in Barbados, her executrices, and mentioned her ‘much honoured friend, the dean of St. Patrick, Dr. Swift.’ She left a manuscript tragedy called ‘The Duke of Somerset,’ and a comedy, ‘The Double Mistress.’ In 1725 ‘A Stage Coach Journey to Exeter,’ a reprint of the ‘Letters’ of 1696, was published, and in the same year, or at the end of 1724, Curll brought out ‘Mrs. Manley's History of her own Life and Times,’ which was a fourth edition of the ‘Adventures of Rivella.’ The third edition (1717) was called ‘Memoirs of the Life of Mrs. Manley.’ In the ‘Address to the Reader’ Curll said the ‘Adventures of Rivella’ were originally written because Charles Gildon had begun a similar work, which he abandoned at Mrs. Manley's desire.

Other pieces attributed to Mrs. Manley without due warrant are: ‘The Court Legacy, a new ballad opera,’ by ‘Atalia,’ 1733; ‘Bath Intrigues’ (signed ‘J. B.’), 1725; and ‘The Mercenary Lover,’ 1726. She may have written ‘A True Relation of the several Facts and Circumstances of the intended Riot and Tumult on Queen Elizabeth's Birthday,’ 1711. In March 1724, shortly before her death, Curll and ‘Orator’ Henley informed Walpole that they had seen a letter of Mrs. Manley's, intimating that a fifth volume of the ‘New Atalantis’ was printed off, the design of which was to attack George I and the government. Curll suggested that the book should be suppressed, and added a hope that he should get ‘something in the post office’ or stamp office for his diligent support of the government (Gent. Mag. 1798, pt. ii. p. 191). Whether this information was true is uncertain; but if the book was in existence it seems never to have been published.

[The Adventures of Rivella noticed above supplies details of Mrs. Manley's early years. See also Swift's Works, ed. Scott, 1824, i. 118, ii. 238, 303, 393, 483; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. ii. 265, 390, 443, iii. 250, 291, 350, 392, 7th ser. vii. 127, 232, viii. 11, 156–7; Genest's History of the Stage, ii. 75, 92, 361, 600; Theatrical Records, 1756, p. 83;Aitken's Life of Richard Steele, 1889, i. 140–4, 261–4, 394–5, ii. 7, 155–6; Langbaine's English Dramatick Poets, 1698; Jacob's Poetical Register, 1719; Leigh Hunt's Men, Women, and Books, 1847, ii. 131–2; Curll's Impartial History of Mr. John Barber, 1741, pp. 24, 44–7; Life and Character of John Barber, Esq., 1741, pp. 12–16.]

G. A. A.



35. ii  3 f.e.  Manley, Mrs. Mary de la Rivierefor (1672 ? read (1663

            l.l.⁠. for about 1672 read 7 April 1663 (Sloane MS. 1708, f. 117)

Encyclopædia Britannica 11th edition (1911)

MANLEY, MARY DE LA RIVIERE (c. 1663–1724), English writer, daughter of Sir Roger Manley, governor of the Channel Islands, was born on the 7th of April 1663 in Jersey. She wrote her own biography under the title of The Adventures of Rivellaor the History of the Author of the Atalantis by “Sir Charles Lovemore” (1714). According to her own account she was left an orphan at the age of sixteen, and beguiled into a mock marriage with a kinsman who deserted her basely three years afterwards. She was patronized for a short time by the duchess of Cleveland, and wrote an unsuccessful comedy, The Lost Lover (1696); in freedom of speech she equalled the most licentious writers of comedy in that generation. Her tragedy, The Royal Mischief (1696) was more successful. From 1696 Mrs Manley was a favourite member of witty and fashionable society. In 1705 appeared The Secret History of Queen Zarah and the Zarazians, a satire on Sarah, duchess of Marlborough, in the guise of romance. This was probably by Mrs Manley, who, four years later, achieved her principal triumph as a writer by her Secret Memoirs . . . of Several Persons of Quality (1709), a scandalous chronicle “from the New Atalantis, an island in the Mediterranean.” She was arrested in the autumn of 1709 as the author of a libellous publication, but was discharged by the court of queen’s bench on the 13th of February 1710. Mrs Manley sought in this scandalous narrative to expose the private vices of the ministers whom Swift, Bolingbroke and Harley combined to drive from office. During the keen political campaign in 1711 she wrote several pamphlets, and many numbers of the Examiner, criticizing persons and policy with equal vivacity. Later were published her tragedy Lucius (1717); The Power of Love, in Seven Novels (1720), and A Stage Coach Journey to Exeter (1725).