Emily Eden as a Letter-Writer

Admired by Lord Melbourne; and, later, the author of two popular novels, Emily Eden was one of the liveliest of correspondents. By Prudence Hannay.

Emily Eden is a member of the illustrious sextet of women letter-writers whom Lord David Cecil considers in the first flight - her companions being Dorothy Osborne, Lady Sarah Lennox, Lady Bessborough, Lady Granville and Mrs Carlyle. Harriet Granville and Emily Eden were contemporaries of Jane Austen and, as Lord David says, ‘their pages sparkle with a crisp and kindred irony’. They all possessed certain similar characteristics - strong feelings and a forthright outlook on life, acute powers of observation and a gift of beautifully translating into words their sense of the ridiculous.

There were certain similarities, too, in the lives of Lady Granville and Emily Eden although the one was most happily married and the other remained most happily unmarried. Lady Granville spent many years as Ambassadress in Paris while Emily fulfilled much the same role during six of the same years as hostess for her brother, Lord Auckland, while he was Governor-General of India. Both ladies were obliged to play their parts in the exacting and exhausting social life of the time, though both preferred a quiet life among their families and a few chosen friends.

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