Plumptre, Anne, 1760—1818
by Benjamin Colbert
Anne Plumptre was baptised on 22 February 1760 at Norwich, the daughter of Robert Plumptre (1723-1788; ODNB), prebendary of Norwich, and Anne Plumptre, née Newcome. She received a good education, especially in modern languages, and she excelled in German.
With her sister Annabella Plumptre (1769-1838) she began her literary career in the 1790s amidst a group of talented Norwich writers that included Amelia Alderson (later Opie) and their brother James Plumptre (1771-1832; ODNB). Under the influence of William Taylor of Norwich, both sisters began translating tales and plays from the German, particular works of August von Kotzebue (1761-1819). Anne Plumptre, meanwhile, found common cause with radical dissenters in Norwich and London in support of the French Revolution.
Her first major publications were novels, Antoinette (1796) and The Rector’s Son (1798), but from 1798 she began making a name for herself as a translator, first of several plays by Kotzebue. She also turned to travel writing, translating Friedrich von Matthison’s Letters Written from Various Parts of the Continent (1799), Kotzebue’s Journal of a His Tour to Paris (part of a larger Sketch of the Life and Career) (1800), and a satirical travel fiction by Johann Carl August Musaeus (1735-1787), Physiognomical Travels (1800).
At the Peace of Amiens, Plumptre travelled to Paris in the company of Amelia Opie, and she remained even after hostilities recommenced, returning only in 1805. Her intentions had originally been to settle, as she explained several months into the trip in an unpublished letter to her friend Anne Morgan, née Hurry, widow of the radical dissenter George Cadogan Morgan (1754-1798). To her friend, Plumptre confessed herself ‘excessively disappointed’ in post-Revolutionary France, lamenting ‘its scene of outward splendor but of inward misery’. However, Plumptre remained confident that Napoleon’s intentions were good, but tailored to fit the state of the people. Unwilling to allow her observations to ‘give the enemies of the general cause of liberty … a triumph’, however, she urged Morgan to keep these views confidential.
While in France, Plumptre discovered a manuscript written by Dr M. Bertrand, a witness to the Marseilles plague in 1720, which she translated as A Historical Relation of the Plague at Marseilles and published soon after her return to England in 1805. After delays, her next major work was her own travel account, A Narrative of a Three Years’ Residence in France (1810), which continued to find in Napoleon a champion of liberty beneath his imperial garb and urged her compatriots to see in him a legitimate governor rather than the ‘usurper’, as he was commonly called in Royalist camps.
Plumptre published one further novel in 1813, but travel writing, translated and original, preoccupied her principally in her final years. From the German, she translated Martin Lichtenstein’s Travels in South Africa, the first volume of which appeared in 1812, the second in 1815; and George Heinrich von Langsdorff’s Voyages and Travels in Various Parts of the World (1813). From the French, she translated François C. H. L. Poqueville’s Travels in the Morea, Albania, and Other Parts of the Ottoman Empire (1813). Her second and last personal travelogue was Narrative of a Residence in Ireland (1817), which linked her name with one of her hosts in 1814-15, Lady Sydney Morgan, whose France published the same year would stir up a critical hornet’s nest.
Anne Plumptre’s literary career began and ended in collaboration with her sister, Annabella Plumptre, for Tales of Wonder, of Humour, and of Sentiment (1818) was such a joint effort. Anne Plumptre died the same year in Norwich on 20 October.
Morgan, George Cadogan, and Richard Price Morgan. Travels in Revolutionary France & A Journey across America. Ed. Mary-Ann Constantine and Paul Frame. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2012. Print.
Plumptre, Anne. Letter to Anne Morgan, née Hurry. 30 May . MS. Adds. 78688, ff. 173-75. British Lib., London.
Shaffer, Elinor. 'Plumptre, Anne (1760–1818), writer and translator'. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 23 Sept. 2010. Oxford University Press. Web. 9 Jan. 2018. https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/22399
|A Narrative of a Three Years' Residence in France||1810|
|Narrative of a Residence in Ireland||1817|
|Journal of His Tour to Paris||1800||Translator|
|Voyages and Travels in Various Parts of the World||1813||Translator|
|Travels in Southern Africa||1812||Translator|
|Letters Written from Various Parts of the Continent||1799||Translator|
|Travels in the Morea, Albania, and Other Parts of the Ottoman Empire||1813||Translator|