Image of Frances Burney, 1782 (painted by Edward Francisco Burney) The Burney Centre at McGill University

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McGill University
Department of English

The Burney Society

Biographies






Title page to volume 1 of What Shall Be, Shall Be
By Elizabeth Meeke



Born: November 13, 1761
Died: unknown [?1826]

 

Works:

  • Count St Blancard, or the Prejudiced Judge (1795)
  • The Abbey of Clugny (1796)
  • The Mysterious Wife (1797)
  • Palmira and Ermance (1797)
  • The Sicilian (1798)
  • Harcourt (1799)
  • Ellesmere (1799)
  • Anecdotes of the Altamont Family (1800)
  • The Mysterious Husband (1801)
  • Which is the Man? (1801)
  • Independence (1802)
  • Midnight Weddings (1802)
  • Amazement (1804)
  • The Nine Days’ Wonder (1804)
  • The Old Wife and Young Husband (1804)
  • Something Odd! (1804)
  • The Wonder of the Village (1805)
  • Something Strange (1806)
  • "There is a Secret, Find it Out!" (1808)
  • Langhton Priory (1809)
  • Stratagems Defeated (1811)
  • Matrimony, the Height of Bliss, or the Extreme of Misery (1812)
  • Conscience (1814)
  • The Spanish Campaign; or The Jew (1815)
  • The Veiled Protectress; or, The Mysterious Mother (1819)
  • What Shall Be, Shall Be (1823)





Birth

Elizabeth Allen was born on November 13, 1761, and baptised the same day in St Margaret’s Church, King’s Lynn, Norfolk. She was the youngest child of Stephen Allen (1724–1763) and Elizabeth (Eliza) Allen (1728–1796). Her parents were cousins.

 

Youth and Education

Elizabeth Allen became related to the Burneys when, following their father’s death, her mother married Dr Charles Burney in 1767. In December 1775, Elizabeth Allen was sent to Paris for education purposes, initially under the care of a family friend, Isabella Strange, and later as a boarder with a Mlle. Picot.

 

Personal Life

Eliza Burney travelled to Paris in August 1777, planning to accompany her daughter home. But the fifteen year-old Elizabeth Allen then left Paris with an ill-famed man named Samuel Meeke (c.1737–1802). They were married on October 12, 1777, at the Reformed Church at Ypres.  Following this scandal, the Meekes are next recorded in 1781, living in Geneva. By this point they were sufficiently reconciled to their Burney relations that Elizabeth Meeke’s half-sister Sarah Harriet Burney and her half-brother Richard Burney were sent to be educated under their supervision. They moved to France in 1782, and Elizabeth Meeke subsequently made occasional visits to her family in Britain. By the mid-1780s, Samuel Meeke was working as an English tutor at Paris under the supervision of Mme. de Genlis. In 1787 the Meekes were legally separated, and it appears that Elizabeth Meeke left her husband for another man. She then seems to have continued to reside abroad, before returning to Britain in 1793.

 

Literary Career

Between 1795 and 1823, twenty-six novels by Elizabeth Meeke were published. This made her the most prolific novelist of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, outpublishing even Sir Walter Scott. Most of these works were published as 'Mrs Meeke', with six appearing under the pseudonym 'Gabrielli' and five appearing anonymously. All her novels were published through William Lane's Minerva Press and its successor ventures. She also worked extensively as a translator of novels and other works, mostly from French-language sources, and wrote a series of children’s books.

 

Final Years

Little is known about Elizabeth Meeke's later years. Around 1796, she was masquerading socially as 'Mrs Bruce'. Yet, even though Samuel Meeke died in 1802, she appears not to have remarried until late in life: legal documents from 1824 record her impending marriage with a man named Benjamin Rawlings. Her date of death is unknown, but her decease is referred to in an undated letter which may have been written in October 1826.

 

 

Further Reading

 

Print Resources


Macdonald, Simon. "Identifying Mrs Meeke: Another Burney Family Novelist." Review of English

Studies, forthcoming 2013. [Early View currently available online]

 



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