Victorian Literature Florence Marryat
Greta Depledge
  • LAST REVIEWED: 03 June 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 May 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199799558-0050


Florence Marryat (b. 1833–d. 1899) was born in Brighton on 9 July 1833. Some accounts of Marryat’s life put her birth date as later than this; however, archival research by Catherine Pope and Andrew Maunder confirm the earlier date. Marryat was responsible for the confusion over her date of birth, as she regularly fudged the truth about her age, most notably at the time of her second marriage. She was one of eleven children born to the novelist Captain Frederick Marryat and his wife. Marryat’s parents separated when she was quite young and, as a result, she had a somewhat nomadic childhood with no formal education. On 13 June 1854 she married Thomas Ross Church at Penang, Malaya, and settled there with him. However, in 1860 she returned to England because of poor health. The children of the marriage came to England with Florence but Ross Church remained in India. Ross Church clearly returned to England to visit his wife and children periodically, as four more children were born. Marryat’s first novel, Love’s Conflict, appeared in 1865. Marryat wrote this while nursing her children through scarlet fever. The novel was published by Bentley and Son—her father’s publishers—and this saw the beginning of a prolific career. Marryat published around ninety novels. In 1872 she also produced Life and Letters of Captain Marryat as a memorial to the life and work of her father. Marryat wrote countless short stories and plays, edited the London Society journal (between 1872 and 1876), acted with the D’Oyle Carte opera company, and adapted some of her own work for the stage. She also became well known in spiritualist circles. Marryat and Ross Church divorced in 1878, and the following year she married Colonel Francis Lean. Although she had been living with Lean for some time, the marriage was short lived. In the 1890s she joined the recently formed Society for Authors and established her own School of Literary Art, the prospectus of which can be found in the British Library Manuscript Collections. In the late 1890s her health started to fail, and she died as a result of pneumonia and diabetes complications on 27 October 1899. She did, however, remain active until the end of her life, publishing two novels in 1899. Her companion during her final years was former theater collaborator Herbert McPherson. She was buried at Kensal Green Cemetery.

General Overviews

There are no book-length overviews of Marryat’s life and work. Maunder 2004, an introduction to Love’s Conflict, provides a significant amount of analysis and detailed research into Marryat’s life and work. More recently Palmer 2009 and Palmer 2011 provide us with a good introduction to the various aspects of Marryat’s diverse career as a novelist, editor, and actress. The chapter on Marryat in Palmer 2011 contains a wealth of information and critical insight. Extensive archival research and sound scholarship makes this chapter an essential source of information on Marryat’s career. The Florence Marryat website also offers a comprehensive and well-researched assessment of Marryat’s life and work, giving a detailed overview of her fiction, her relationship with the theater, and her interest in spiritualism. Shattock 1999 provides a comprehensive list of Marryat’s novels and the Wellesley Index provides details of Marryat’s work published in the Temple Bar Magazine. The Orlando Project has a section on Marryat, but this is available through subscription only or free to members of subscribing institutions.

  • Florence Marryat

    In addition to biographical information, this website also contains a detailed bibliography of Marryat’s works and synopses of a number of her novels, as well as details about her work in the theater and her spiritualist interests.

  • Maunder, Andrew, ed. “Introduction to Love’s Conflict.” In Varieties of Women’s Sensation Fiction 1855–1890. Vol. 2. London: Pickering and Chatto, 2004.

    Extremely informative introduction to this novel that places it within the contextual field and provides a significant amount of background to Marryat’s life and work, making much use of archival sources.

  • Florence Marryat. Orlando Project: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present.

    Provides information on Marryat’s life and writing, though it contains some inaccuracies.

  • Palmer, Beth. “Florence Marryat, Theatricality, Performativity.” Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century 19.8 (2009).

    Is an earlier version of some of the work contained in Women’s Authorship.

  • Palmer, Beth. Women’s Authorship and Editorship in Victorian Culture: Sensational Strategies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199599110.001.0001

    The latest and probably the most comprehensive look at Marryat’s life and work. The book considers Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Ellen Wood, and Florence Marryat, who were all writing and editing in the 1860s and 1870s. Chapter 4, “Florence Marryat on Page and Stage,” considers the “performativity” of the various roles Marryat took on during her working life.

  • Shattock, Joanne, ed. Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature. Vol. 4. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

    A comprehensive bibliography of Marryat’s novels, giving publication, author, and volume details.

  • Wellesley Index.

    This index provides details of the shorter works by Marryat that were serialized in Temple Bar Magazine including “Gup,” “Meg Hartley’s Cure,” “The Poison of Asps,” among others.

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