Biography of Eleanor Sleath by Beth Kilkenny
Biographical information concerning Eleanor Sleath is, it would seem, impossible to discover. Devendra Varma speculates on certain possibilities he has found as to the identity of her husband; she may have been the widow of a surgeon in Leicestershire who died in 1794; she may have been the daughter of a John Sleath and Elizabeth Sedgley, baptised in Leicester on April the sixth 1763; or she may have been the Eleanor Martin Sleath who wed the son of the afore mentioned couple in 1784. Further speculation concerns reference to her religion, particularly that her works indicate a strong knowledge of Catholicism and also that her niece may have been a godchild to George IV. However, it would seem pertinent to note that no solid evidence has been discovered and no obituary notice can be found. Varma also notes she is referenced in the Biographical Dictionary of Living Authors, published in 1816, but this merely lists her works and he considers the compiler may not have troubled himself to discover if she was actually alive or not.
The Dictionary of National Biography includes information of a John Sleath (1767-1847) who was high master of St.Paul's School in Barnes, London (1814-1837) whom is reported to have been married but left no children. Information from the current archivist at St.Paul's reports there is ' no reference to any wife for Sleath'.
The Feminist Companion for Literature in English references her as the author of five gothic novels, which are:
The Orphan of the Rhine, 1798
Who's the murderer?, 1802
The Bristol Heiress; or the Errors of Education, 1809
The Nocturnal Minstrel; or the Spirit of the woods, 1810
Pyrenean Banditti, 1811
Varma attributes another novel to her, Glenoven or the Fairy Palace, which he claims was published in 1815. However, Dorothy Blakey's account of The Minerva Press, by whom all Sleath's other works were published, does not attribute a novel of this title to Sleath, nor is there a novel of that name attributed to any other author.
Blain, V Clements, P and Grundy, I, The Feminist Companion to Literature in English. Batsford, 1990.
Blakey, D, The Minerva Press, 1790-1820. Oxford University Press, 1939.
Sleath, E, The Orphan of the Rhine: The Northanger Set of Jane Austen Horrid Novels ed. D.P.Varma. The Folio Press, 1968.
The Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, 1922.