‘Walk into my parlour and I’ll show you who’s fly’ - Mary Howitt.
Special power: Translator
Comic Release Date: March 2015
Mary Botham Howitt (1799 – 1888) was born Mary Botham in Gloucestershire and educated at home by a strict Quaker father, but rebelled against her austere upbringing by marrying William Howitt while wearing a fancy silk dress with ribbons. The newly-weds moved to Heanor to run a pharmacy, but soon came to Nottingham, where they lived for around twenty years while establishing themselves as writers.
It’s thought that including the works she wrote in collaboration with William, Mary Howitt published around 180 books, covering subjects as various as histories of America and Magic, children’s stories and poems, translations of works by Hans Christian Anderson, original novels and a two volume autobiography.
She knew everybody who was anyone on the literary scene of her day, from William and Dorothy Wordsworth to Charles Dickens, and counted poet laureate Alfred Tennyson as a neighbour. She also campaigned against the slave trade, managed to travel in Scandinavia, Austria, Italy and Germany, explored Spiritualism, and in her final years became both a Roman Catholic and a prominent advocate for Suffragette causes.
Mary Howitt Facts
1: Howitt’s long poem Marien’s Pilgrimage is about a girl so sure of the reward of a life after death that she becomes a kind of teary Terminator of prayer and good works.
2: The Spider and The Fly was parodied (as The Lobster Quadrille) by Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland.
3: The Spider and The Fly first appeared in Howitt’s collection Sketches of Natural History (1834), a series of poems written to educate children about the realities of the natural world.
4: One of the rarest of her books, a pioneering photographic study of The Abbeys and Castles of England, was written with William and would set you back well over £1,000 today.
5: Howitt’s son, Alfred, grew up to become an anthropologist, and was one of the first to live among the tribes and study the aboriginal cultures of Australia.
Follow Mary on Twitter: @MaryHowitt