Women's Writing Database


Brief Biographical sketch of Ellen Pickering from Cyclopaedia of Female Biography; consisting of Sketches of All Women who have been distinguished by Great Talents, Strength of Charaacter, Piety, Benevolence, or Moral Virtue of any kind, forming a complete record of Womanly Excellence or Ability. Edited by H.G. Adams. Glasgow: Robert Forrester, Stockwell, 1865 (615).


Ellen Pickering

An English novel-writer, of whom it may be truly said that she has given more innocent amusement in the way of this literature, with less of dangerous excitement, than any one author of her class. She wrote rapidly, having in the course of a few years sent forth a dozen or more works; among which "The Grumbler;" "The Fright;" "Nan Darrell;" and "The Quiet Husband," are distinguished for the unflagging interest, which they exercise over the imagination of young readers.

Miss Pickering, judging from her books, must have had a mind which felt and cultivated the feminine qualities of delicacy and purity; her principles are excellent; nothing course in thought or language ever sullied her page. Her enthusiasm is always in favour of virtue and truth. But she too often sacrifices probability to the wish of showing the perfection of her heroine in the most attractive light. For instance, the "Admirable Crichton" could hardly have equalled the facility with which the poor heroine, under the most adverse circumstances, becomes perfectly accomplished; arts and sciences which usually require time, money, and excellent instructors, are attained by her in one brief visit, where a well-educated friend imparts both practice and theory; or the crumbs let fall by a half-educated governess, work miracles for the neglected child. The young lady, too, is at fifteen or sixteen equal to the most complicated situation; her judgement is never at fault; and as to human frailty, that is an inadmissible supposition.

As a pendant, the uncle, grandfather, cousin, or whoever may be the oppressor, is a wretch quite devoid of the milk of human kindness. All the mixed motives that sway this earth's denizens have been without impression upon the adamant of his heart, until the right moment comes for him to show the sunny side of his nature; the habits of thirty or forty years are laid aside as easily as gloves when we return from a walk. These are blemishes in the character of Miss Pickering's novels, and may have an injurious influence on those who expect to realise scenes similer in actual life. But the author is always sedulous to point a wise moral, though not always judidious in the means.

Miss Pickering's last work was "The Grandfather," which she did not live to finish. She died near London, in 1843. The novel was completed by her friend, Elizabeth Youatt, and published in 1844. All her works have been republished in the United States, and widely circulated, in the cheap form principally.