Wolverhampton BTW

Mary Anne Schimmelpenninck

Schimmelpenninck, Mary Anne née Galton, 1778—1856

by Benjamin Colbert

Mary Anne Galton was born on 25 November 1778 at Birmingham, the eldest child of Samuel Galton (1753-1832; ODNB), gun maker, and Lucy Galton, née Barclay (1757-1817). Her parents belonged to the Society of Friends and her upbringing, though strict, encouraged her intellectual curiosity. A move to Barr in Staffordshire when she was seven brought the family into the company of leading members of the Lunar Society, including James Watt, Joseph Priestly, and Erasmus Darwin.

In 1806, Mary Anne Galton married Lambert Schimmelpenninck (c.1766-1840), a Dutch merchant from Bristol, where she moved to join him. Two years later, she converted to Methodism. In 1811, her husband’s financial difficulties compounded by a dispute with her family over her marriage settlement led her to seek literary employment. Hannah More brought her attention to the Port Royal papers and her first major work was a heavily modernised edition of Narrative of a Tour to La Grande Chartreuse and Alet (1813) by Claude Lancelot, the seventeenth-century Jansenist educationalist of the Port Royal des Champs. This was followed by an aesthetic treatise, her Theory on the Classification of Beauty and Deformity (1815).

Soon after the peace of 1814, she undertook a continental tour herself, visiting her husband’s family in Holland and taking the opportunity to visit the ruins of the Port Royal. Her Narrative of the Demolition of the Monastery of Port Royal des Champs (1816), is a sequel to her previous book on the Port Royal, but also includes extracts of her own travel journal on the spot. In subsequent years she travelled within England. Her visits to friends and relations at Falmouth in 1824, 1825, and 1826 are recorded in a series of unpublished letters that amply display her powers as a travel writer. Although she never stopped writing, her last book publication was Biblical Fragments (1820-21).

In 1818, she joined the Moravian church with which she remained until her death. After an attack of paralysis in 1837, she recovered at Clifton, and moved there permanently after her husband’s death in 1840. She died on 29 August 1856.


Hankin, Christiana C., ed. Life of Mary Anne Schimmelpenninck Author of “Select Memoirs of Port Royal” and Other Works. 2 vols. London: Longman, Brown, Green Longmans, and Roberts, 1858. Print.

Lee, Elizabeth, and K. D. Reynolds. 'Schimmelpenninck [née Galton], Mary Anne (1778–1856), author'. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 3 Oct. 2013. Oxford University Press. Web. 8 Dec. 2017. https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/24809


Title Published
Narrative of a Tour Taken in the Year 1667, to La Grande Chartreuse and Alet 1813 Editor
Narrative of the Demolition of the Monastery of Port Royal des Champs 1816

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