Coxe, Emilia Henrietta, c.1752—1841
by Benjamin Colbert
Emilia Henrietta Coxe was born around 1752, daughter of Dr William Coxe (c. 1710-1760), physician to the Royal household, and Martha Coxe, née D’Aranda (1723-1786). Among her brothers were the traveller and clergyman, William Coxe (1748-1828; ODNB), and the poet, Edward Coxe (d. 1818).
Coxe’s literary accomplishments were quieter than those of her brothers, but she saw success with her first anonymous two-volume publication, The Female Mentor (1793; vol. 3, 1796), which reached a second edition (1798) and was reprinted in Philadelphia (1802). In it, Coxe uses the pseudonym, ‘Honoria’, and describes a fortnightly instructional meeting ‘under the auspices of Amanda’ (a play on her mother’s maiden name) which stretches from her childhood to the present, the circle at first including her siblings and expanding to include ‘men of genius and abilities’. While idealized, the portrait may offer a glimpse of an otherwise hidden aspect of Coxe’s upbringing.
Coxe is known to have published two more works, both dedicated to her brother William Coxe. The first is a translation and abridgement of Michel de Montaigne’s Essays (1800), again under the pen name ‘Honoria’, designed principally to render the essays ‘proper for the perusal of my own sex’ (xix). The second is her abridgment of William Coxe’s Historical Tour, as a pocket companion for tourists. Having dropped ‘Honoria’, Coxe donned the generic identifier, ‘by a Lady’, continuing to efface her very considerable talents.
Little more is known of her life at present. Her Will demonstrates that she lived comfortably on the rents and profits from her share of family properties in London (and she made a point of securing her female legatees’ independence by ensuring their future husbands would have no control over the shares she left them). In the later part of her life she resided in Kingsgate-Street, Winchester, where she died in December 1841.
‘Births, Deaths, Marriages and Obituaries’. Jackson's Oxford Journal, no. 4624 (Sat., 11 Dec. 1841). Gale Databases: British Library Newspapers: Part I: 1800-1900. Web. 7 Sept. 2017.
Coxe, Emilia Henrietta. Last Will and Testament. 1 Jan. 1842. MS. Prob 11/1956/70. Natl. Archives, Kew.
‘Exhibition captions’. ‘My booke and my selfe’: Michel de Montaigne 1533-1592. Cambridge University Library. Web. 7 Sept. 2017.
Knight, Jeremy. 'Coxe, William (1748–1828), historian and Church of England clergyman'. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 21 May 2009. Web. 7 Sept. 2017. https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/6540
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