The two Lizzie Bates-es

So I was browsing obscure 18th and 19th century novels, as you do—

—okay, as I do—

—and I found myself taking an interest in a lady called Lizzie Bates, who seemed to have had a lengthy and interesting career.

Though she sometimes hid behind the modest moniker, “By A Lady”, I was able to determine that over a course of years Ms Bates published both fiction and non-fiction, and a great deal of both: sentimental novels, epistolary novels, historical novels, children’s stories, plays, poetry, “sentimental discourses”, tributes to other writers, collections of “witticisms”, transcriptions of sermons, commentaries upon “the female sex” (tending, seemingly, to both the traditional and the feminist), historical writing (including about the Bible), primers in history and geography for children, temperance fiction—

Wait a minute: temperance fiction? That didn’t seem right…

Yes—curiously enough, while I was able to accept that the rest of that fairly remarkable list had been the work of one fecund lady, the appearance on it of temperance fiction gave me pause, since (as far as I’m aware) that form of writing was almost exclusively an American phenomenon, and it was evident that the lady whose career I was tracing was English.

A closer look revealed that my instincts on that point were correct, and that there were, in fact, two Lizzie Bates-es (something which, in the wake of my self-debate about how many Mrs Meeke-s there were – and the subsidiary discovery of a Miss Meeke – I found rather humorous).

Lizzie-Bates-A, if I may call her that, was indeed English; and while we have encountered plenty of women who wrote to support their families, and while this too is a pretty clear case of it, we haven’t previously come across one who had such a long and varied career so early in the game. My research has her publishing on a regular basis for nearly fifty years, with her first work – on “female oeconomy” – appearing in 1751; while 1800 saw the publication of two novels and a volume of “poetical extracts”.

Lizzie-Bates-B, meanwhile, seems to have begun publishing around 1869; and while she also wrote novels, they were much narrower in their scope, being self-evidently didactic in purpose. At the same time, it seems that Miss B’s main area of activity was short stories for the magazines; although unfortunately, I have been unable to find out much more than that.

My latest trip to the random number generator for Reading Roulette brought up one of the many works by “Lizzie Bates”—and, given how my luck usually runs, I was not particularly surprised if a little disappointed that it was Lizzie-Bates-B. Our selection this time is what seems an entirely characteristic work, a piece of Christian-temperance-didactic fiction from 1873 called Had You Been In His Place.

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5 Comments to “The two Lizzie Bates-es”

  1. Are you familiar with the Hathi Trust Library? Every so often I’ll look up some obscure author and read all the books I can find. Although I much prefer an actual real book to a computer screen.
    Lately I’ve been catching up on Horatio Alger. I hadn’t realized that he used the old ‘confined to a mental institution’ so much.

    • I am and I use it, but because I’m in a different country my access is restricted, so I often get a frustrating “limited view” response to my searches. Still—it’s one of my ports of call in my resolution not to buy books unless there is no other option.

      On the other hand I’m finding the Wright American Fiction Collection a big help.

      Hey, you just can’t lock people up too often… 🙂

      • The night after I posted that comment, I had the most horrible nightmare (and I’ve had some doozies). Basic Chiller movie theme, a bunch of us in an abandoned mental hospital, and all of us end up insane (if not dead). Apparently my subconscious is very suggestible.
        The worst part was, I woke up at 2 am, and knew that if I fell back asleep, I would end up back in that hospital.

  2. Well, at least they don’t seem to have overlapped in their productive years. That’s something.

    • No, their careers were quite distinct once you looked at the details (unlike those of the two Mrs Meekes!): both of them choosing the same variation of their first name was an odd, misleading touch, though.

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