Wolverhampton BTW

Ann Radcliffe

Radcliffe, Ann née Ward, 1764—1823

by Benjamin Colbert

Ann Ward was born in London on 9 July 1764, the daughter of William Ward (1737-98), haberdasher, and Ann Ward, née Oates (1726-1800), of Chesterfield. In 1770, her family moved to Bath, where, after the failure of his haberdashery business, her father worked for his brother-in-law, the dissenter Thomas Bentley who was partner to Joseph Wedgwood in the pottery industry. In the 1770s, Ann Ward divided her time between Bath and Bentley’s residences in London, where she came into contact with writers including Elizabeth Montagu and Hester Piozzi.

On 15 January 1787, Ann Ward married William Radcliffe (1763-1830) at St. Michael’s Church, Bath. After abandoning law, William Radcliffe became a journalist and parliamentary reporter, associated principally with a radical newspaper, the Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, from 1790 to 1793, and the English Chronicle from 1796. Part of a radical dissenting community that valued intellectual achievement, Ann Radcliffe published her first ‘romance’, The Castles of Athlin and Dubayne in 1789, and her subsequent novels earned her renown and an increasing readership: A Sicilian Romance (1790), The Romance of the Forest (1791), and The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794).

In Summer 1794, Ann Radcliffe and her husband left England with the intention of journeying to Italy, but they were prevented from travelling past the Italian border as a result of inadequate passports (Wright 133). While her novel The Italian (1797) had to do without on-the-spot observations, she did write up her continental travels in her Journey Made in the Summer of 1794 (1795). In the preface, Radcliffe credits her husband’s contributions to reconstructing the journey on paper (he was known in his day for a prodigious memory) and in writing the political sections.

Besides The Italian, Radcliffe wrote only one further novel, Gaston de Blondeville (1826), which was published posthumously. The cause of her silence after the age of 33 was and is cause for much speculation. While she did not publish, she continued to write travel journals of her sojourns within Britain, especially trips to the South coast. She died on 7 February 1823 at her home in Pimlico, probably of a bronchial infection.


Miles, Robert. 'Radcliffe [née Ward], Ann (1764–1823), novelist'. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 23 Sept. 2005. Oxford University Press. Web. 9 Jan. 2018. https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/22974

‘Mrs. Ann Radcliffe’. Annual Biography and Obituary 8 (1824): 89-105. Print.

Wright, Angela. ‘Inspiration, Toleration and Relocation in Ann Radcliffe’s A Journey Made in the Summer of 1794, Through Holland and the Western Frontier of Germany (1795)’. Romantic Localities: Europe Writes Place. Ed. Christoph Bode and Jacqueline Labbe. London: Pickering & Chatto, 2010. 131-144. Print.


Title Published
A Journey Made in the Summer of 1794 1795

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