Mary Augusta Arnold Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Mary Augusta Ward, née Mary Augusta Arnold and also known as Mrs. Humphry Ward, was a best-selling novelist in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The first of eight children born to Thomas Arnold and Julia Sorrell, she was the granddaughter of Thomas Arnold, headmaster of Rugby, and niece of Matthew Arnold, the famous poet and critic. When the family returned to England from Tasmania in 1854, following her father’s conversion to Roman Catholicism, she was sent to Fox How, the Arnold family home in Westmoreland, to be raised by her grandmother and Aunt Francis Arnold, while her father served at the Catholic University in Dublin. During this period she attended the Rock Terrace School for Young Ladies and came under the influence of the Evangelical Vicar of Shiffnal.{$S[A]Ward, Mrs. Humphry;Ward, Mary Augusta}

Thomas Arnold returned to the Church of England in 1865 and was rewarded with a lectureship at Oxford University, where Mary joined him in 1867. She served as researcher in the Bodleian Library for her father as well as for Mark Pattison, the rector of Lincoln, who had her read Spanish church records from the fifth and sixth centuries. Her first publication, “A Westmoreland Story,” appeared in The Churchman’s Companion in July, 1870, and was followed by a pamphlet, A Morning in the Bodleian, in 1871. Edward Freeman asked her to write a volume on Spain for the historical series he was editing, a project she did not feel ready to take on. Much in demand in the social life of Oxford, she met Thomas Humphry Ward, to whom she was married on April 6, 1872. For the next several years she wrote articles for Macmillan’s Magazine, the Saturday Review, and the Oxford Spectator to supplement her husband’s meager salary as a tutor.

In 1874, the year her first child, Dorothy, was born, Ward served as secretary of the Committee for Lectures for Women at Oxford, work which led to the founding of the first women’s residence hall at Oxford. In 1879 she accepted the invitation of Henry Ware to write entries on early Spanish saints and ecclesiastics for the Dictionary of Christian Biography. In the following two years she contributed 209 articles. The year 1880 saw the publication of Ward’s Poets. In that same year Humphry Ward accepted a position on the Times, where he eventually became...

(The entire section is 980 words.)