Wolverhampton BTW

Ann Yosy

Yosy, Ann née Cope, ?—1833

by Benjamin Colbert

Ann Cope Yosy’s date of birth, parentage, and upbringing are obscure, although she later claimed to have been partly educated at a ‘celebrated Institution’ where she learned Latin, German, and French, as well as Mathematics, History, and Natural History.

On 30 July 1802, at Hanover Square, London, Ann Cope married John Yosy, of Berne, possibly a Swiss agriculturalist. They appear to have removed to Switzerland soon after and remained there until 1813, Ann Yosy publishing her account of her experiences in Switzerland, as Now Divided into Nineteen Cantons (1815) not long after her return to England. Her only other known publication, a novel entitled Constancy and Leopold, appeared in 1818, although in future years Yosy would write to would-be benefactors that she was in possession of many volumes worth of manuscript material, some of which might have found its way into print on the continent.

By 1822, Yosy’s husband had died and she was in straightened circumstances, appealing to Byron for assistance (both had published under John Murray’s imprint). Byron interested himself enough to write Murray to see if anything might be done for Yosy, following up his 8 October 1822 letter with a postscript in 25 December: ‘Have you aided Madame de Yossy, as I requested? I sent her three hundred francs. Recommend her, will you to the Literary Fund’. Yosy’s own records with the Royal Literary Fund (RLF) commence with an appeal on 6 January 1825 from an address in Pentonville, where she was breadwinner for herself and her dependent son and daughter. Whether primed by Murray or not, the RLF were sympathetic and voted funds on this occasion as well as for further appeals periodically made between 1825 and 1833.

On 22 January 1827, Yosy’s daughter, Harriet, married John Frost, Esq., F.A.S. (1803-40; ODNB), of Bridge-Street, Blackfriars. In 1821, Frost had become the very youthful and ambitious founding Director of the Medico-Botanical Society of London, and his path seems to have crossed that of the Yosys even before his marriage to Harriet. Ann Yosy used him as a reference late in 1825 when applying for a librarian post at the Royal Literary Fund, and Yosy’s son (his father’s namesake), John Peter Yosy, became the Society’s Secretary in 1828. By 1830, however, Frost’s star had fallen and, at the motion of the Earl of Stanhope, he was stripped of his directorship and expelled from the society for abusing the insignia of office. Overcommitting himself financially to other schemes, in 1832 he fled creditors to Paris and then Berlin, abandoning Harriet Yosy (although it is possible that, at some later date after her mother’s death, she rejoined him).

Ann Yosy, meanwhile, had returned to Switzerland in 1829, ‘to look after some property devolving to me at my husband’s death and at mine to my children’; remittances from it never having been paid her in England. While Yosy’s claim was eventually recognized, further delays in establishing payment resulted from a change in the Swiss government as well as trips home, the first around February 1830 when Yosy petitioned the RLF for help in recovering valuable manuscripts left in France, where she had been laid up after her carriage overturned between Paris and Boulogne.

Her affairs took her back to Switzerland one last time, but in 1833, without a settlement in sight, Yosy felt compelled to return to England to look after her daughter, destitute after her husband’s flight. Yosy appealed this time for a loan from the RLF until such time as her remittances could be recovered. The RLF voted her £10 but Yosy had fallen seriously ill, her daughter performing the offices of returning thanks for the sum. Ann Yosy died in Soho, London, soon after.


Allen, D. E. 'Frost, John (1803–1840), medical entrepreneur'. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 23 Sept. 2004. Oxford University Press. Web. 29 Sept. 2017. https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/10196

‘John Frost, Esq. F.S.A.’ [Obit.]. Gentleman’s Mag. 14 (Dec. 1840): 664-66. Print.

‘Medico-Botanical Society’. The Athenaeum, no. 66 (Wed., 28 Jan. 1829): 62. Print.

Moore, Thomas. Letters and Journals of Lord Byron. 2 vols. London: John Murray, 1830. 2: 618-19; 623. Lord Byron and his Times: http://lordbyron.org 2008. Web. 29 Sept. 2017.

Yosy, Ann. Letters. Royal Literary Fund: Registered Case. Vol. 16. No. 534. Madme. Ann Yosy, or Josy. 1825-33. Loan 96 RLF 1/534. British Lib., London.

–––. Letter to John Murray, 1833. MS.41314. John Murray Archive. Natl. Lib. Scotland., Edinburgh.


Title Published
Switzerland, as Now Divided into Nineteen Cantons 1815

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