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Nicola Field: Charlotte Nooth, A Biographical Sketch

Definite facts about the life of Charlotte Nooth are very hard to come by. Those few biographical dictionaries that make reference to Nooth offer only a limited number of details. Not one states her year of birth or the time of her death. How old she was then, when she published her two known works, Original Poems and A Play (1815) and Eglantine; or the Family of Fortescue (1816) is uncertain.

What we do know is that her father was a surgeon, who held an appointment in the household of the Duke of Kent. He died shortly before Original Poems was published. It's possible that he could have been James Nooth, the author of Observations on the treatment of scirrhous tumours, and cancers of the breast, published in 1804 (1). Her uncle, simply referred to as 'Dr Nooth' (2) in the Augustan Review, was a physician for many years to the army in both Canada and Gibraltar. His name was given to a pneumatic machine which he is said to have invented. From this evidence it might be proposed that Nooth's uncle was John Melvin Nooth M.A., author of texts on the subjects of electric machines and fixed air in the 1770's (3).

Apart from these few family details little else is known about the life of Charlotte Nooth. From notes in Original Poems it is clear that she resided for some months in the counties of Down and Antrim, Northern Ireland, during the summer of 1807. When Original Poems was published she was residing in Gloucester Street, London. The following year she was living in Kew.

That Nooth received a reasonably high standard of education can be guessed by the number of literary references made throughout her work. At the beginning of every chapter in Eglantine there is a quotation of some sort. Sometimes they are from the work of an English writer, such as Burns or Shakespeare. More frequently they are taken from the work of a foreign writer. It seems the writings of Quevado and Metastasio, for instance, were well known to her. Not only does she quote these writers, but she also translates some of their poetry in her own book. These quotations and translations indicate that she was probably a fluent speaker of Italian, Spanish, French and German.

From the preface to Original Poems there is a strong implication that she circulated amongst a distinguished set of people. Explaining the circumstances in which she wrote her poems, Nooth states that she received 'frequent gratification' for her work from 'persons of taste and vivacity' (4). In the Augustan Review it speaks of the names and 'titles' which filled the fourteen pages of subscribers to Original Poems and states these people are 'friends' of her 'respectable family' (5). One such friend, it seems likely, was Lady Shepherd, (wife of the highly regarded lawyer Samuel Shepherd), to whom Eglantine is dedicated.

What became of Charlotte Nooth after the publication of in 1916 is unknown. There is no evidence to suggest she ever published anything else, yet there is also no evidence to explain why she would never write again. Perhaps she married? Perhaps she died? Perhaps later work has been lost? It is uncertain whether we will ever know.



(1) Allibone, A Critical Dictionary of English Literature.

(2) Augustan Review, vol. 1, p376.

(3) Allibone.

(4) Nooth, Original Poems, p5

(5) Augustan Review, p376.