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Julia Pardoe

The Corvey Project at
Sheffield Hallam University

Biography of Julia Sophia Pardoe (1806-1862) by Stacy Weir



Julia Sophia Pardoe was born in Beverley, Yorkshire on December 4th 1806. She was the second daughter of Elizabeth and Major Thomas Pardoe. Her father had an extremely successful Military career which included participation in the Peninsular campaigns and concluded at Waterloo (Royal Literary Fund Archive: 1102). Julia Pardoe began her literary career at an early age. Her volume of poetry ran to a second edition when she was just fourteen years old (Dictionary of National Biography, 1922: 201). Her poetry has since been used to create music and song. John Bartlett (1820-1905) includes the opening two lines of a song by Pardoe in his list of 'familiar quotations' in 1901:

‘Oh! The heart is a free and fetterless thing,

A wave of the ocean, a bird on the wing!’ (Bartlett, 1901: 95)

However, it is for her historical and travel writing that Pardoe was first recognised and widely renowned. Julia Pardoe began travelling abroad due to health problems. Her family feared she was consumptive so she travelled to Portugal which resulted in the first of her observant and descriptive works to gain recognition. Traits and Traditions of Portugal (1833) was dedicated to Princess Augusta who was said to have taken ‘an interest in the writer’ (Dictionary of National Biography, 1922: 201).Pardoe also began publishing novels such as Lord Morcar of Hereward (1829) and Speculation (1834). Novels such as The Confessions of a Pretty Woman (1846) and The Rival Beauties (1848) were widely read. (RLF:1102) In her works of fiction she generally liked to examine corruption and hypocrisy within modern society.

In 1836 Pardoe travelled with her father to Constantinople. This particular voyage spawned the book The City of the Sultan and Domestic Manners of the Turks (1838). This publication brought her to ‘the height of popularity’ and was reprinted in 1845 and 1854. (RLF: 1102) Her extensive knowledge of Turkey was said to be ‘unrivalled by any English Woman since Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’ (Crawford et al, 1983). Such knowledge helped Pardoe to create many other publications such as The Beauties of the Bosphorus (1839) and The Romance of the Harem (1839). In 1850 John William Hobbs (1799-1877) used poetry from the The Romance and the Harem to compose a song which he dedicated to a Miss Cuncliffe.

Julia Pardoe also used her travels to Austria and in particular to Hungary as inspiration to produce other works such as The City of Magyar (1840) and The Hungarian Castle (1842) which she researched even more than her previous travel works. Her writing style was said to be ‘… easy, flowing, and spirited, and her delineations of character as vivid as they are just’. (RLF: 1102)

After her travel writing triumphs Julia began using her interest in European history to write. However, at this time she was working extremely hard to support herself and her sick mother and her health was also failing. To combat this she moved from her home in the city of London and lived with her parents in Perry Street near Gravesend and subsequently in Kent.

In 1826 Julia was described as ‘a fairy-footed, fair-haired, laughing sunny girl.’ Much later she was portrayed as ‘a warm-hearted woman, singularly bright and animated; a capital raconteuse, and notwithstanding her literary talents, learned in the domestic arts’. (Dictionary of National Biography, 1922: 201)

From 1845 Miss Pardoe received financial help from the Royal Literary Fund whose committee regarded her as ‘a person of good moral character’ (RLF: 1102). She also received a civil list pension in 1860, the same year that her mother Elizabeth died. After years of poor health, Julia herself died two years later in 1862 on November 26th when she was not yet fifty six years of age.

Julia Pardoe prefixed a short memoir of her own to the first edition of The Court and Reign of Francis I (1849). Her portrait was engraved by Samuel Freeman and is a fitting frontispiece for the second edition of the same novel. Other assessments of her character have included the DNB's comment that ‘… she would never admit her age … and strove in 1856 to be as vivacious as she was at eighteen.’ (Dictionary of National Biography, 1922: 201)

Works by Julia Pardoe:

Lord Morcar of Hereward, 4vols. 1829, 1837.

Speculation, 3vols. 1834.

The Mardens and the Daventrys, 3vols. 1835.

The City of the Sultan and Domestic Manners of the Turks, 2vols. 1838, 1845,1854. The River and the Desert; or Recollections of the Rhine and the Chartreuse, 2vols. 1838.

The Romance of the Harem, 2vols. 1839, 1857.

The Beauties of the Bosphorus, 1839. This book was reprinted in 1854 and 1874, under the title of Picturesque Europe.

The City of the Magyar or Hungary and its Institutions, 3vols. 1840.

The Hungarian Castle, 3vols. 1842.

Confessions of a Pretty Woman, 3vls 1846, 1847, 1860.

Louis XIV and the Court of France in the Seventeenth Century, 3vols. 1847, 1849,1886.

The Jealous Wife 3vols. 1847, 1855, 1857, 1858.

The Rival Beauties 3vols. 1848 (second edition), 1861.

The Court and Reign of Francis I, 2vls. 1849, 3vols1887.

Flies in Amber, 3vols. 1850.

The Life and Memoirs of Marie de Medici, Queen and Regent of France, 3vols. 1852, 1890.

Reginald Lyle, 3vols. 1854, 1857.

Lady Arabella, or The Adventures of a Doll. 1856.

Abroad and at Home: Tales Here and There, 1857.

Pilgrimages in Paris, 1857.

The Poor Relations: A Novel, 3vols. 1858.

Episodes of French History during the Consulate and the First Empire, 2vols. 1859. A Life-struggle, 2vols. 1859.

The Rich Relation, 1862.


Pardoe translated the Italian poem La Peste (1834). She edited the Memoirs of the Queen of Spain (1850). Also she ‘contributed’ to The Thousand and One Days: a companion to The Arabian Nights (1857). (Dictionary of National Biography, 1922: 201)


‘Contributions to Periodicals and Multiple-Author Fiction: See "The Bouquet" under Multiple-Author Fiction.’ (Wolff, 1981)

Pardoe contributed the following to Illuminated Magazine:

Mr. Jefferies I ( Aug. 1843), pp214-215

The Hall of Blood (A Hungarian Tradition) II (March 1844), pp233-235

Elfina: A Fairy in Various Flights III (July 1844), pp 165-168, and (August 1844), pp233-237

Later in Flies in Amber, no. 5391.

Psyche, Love, and the Butterfly (verse) III (September1844), p270. (Wolff, 1981)


Blain, Virginia, Patricia Clements and Isobel Grundy, The Feminist Companion to Literature in English, Batsford, 1990.

Crawford, Anne, et al., The Europa Biographical Dictionary of British Women: Over 1000 Notable Women from Britain’s Past, Gale Research, 1983.

The Dictionary of National Biography, 22 vols, OUP, 1922.

Kunitz, Stanley J. and Howard Haycraft, British Authors of the Nineteenth Century, Wilson, 1952.

Wolff, Robert Lee, Nineteenth-Century Fiction: A Bibliographical Catalogue Based on the Collection Formed by Robert Lee Wolff, 5vols, London and New York, Garland Publishing, 1981.


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