Benger, Elizabeth

Elizabeth Ogilvy Benger (1775-1827) was born in Somerset, the only child of John and Mary Benger (her name is often spelled Benjer in letters and journals, most likely derived from the pronunciation of her name). Her family eventually settled in Chatham, where she remained until 1797. She was a precocious reader and learner as a child, and at a young age composed a significant poem, The Female Geniad, which was published in 1791, the first person and work to identify Mary Steele as the author of Danebury. After her father’s death, the family moved to Devizes in 1797. She and her mother moved to London in 1802, where they enjoyed a large circle of literary acquaintances (they became known as literary hostesses), including Hays and her friend, Mary Reid, as well as Anna Letitia Barbauld, Lucy Aikin, Elizabeth Inchbald, and many others. She wrote little between her early poem and The Abolition of the Slave Trade(1809), after which she published two novels, Marian(1812) and The Heart and the Fancy, or, Valsinore (1813). These were not successful efforts, leading Benger to turn to translation work (much like Hays would attempt to do late in her career), one work being her translation of Klopstock’s letters (1814). As with Hays, she also composed biographies, such as her Memoirs of the Late Mrs. Elizabeth Hamilton (1818) and Memoirs of John Tobin (1820), whose wife, Jane Mullett Tobin, was her personal friend (most likely through her friendship with Mary Reid), as she was of Crabb Robinson (Jane Tobin was the daughter of Robinson’s good friend and mentor, Thomas Mullett). Later she added biographical works pertaining to women’s history, such as Memoirs of the Life of Anne Boleyn(1821),Memoirs of the Life of Mary, Queen of Scots(1823), and Memoirs of Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia (1825). Like Hays and Reid, Benger never married. For more on Benger, see Lucy Aikin, “Memoir of Miss Benger,” in P. H. Le Breton,Memoirs, Miscellanies, and Letters of the Late Lucy Aikin(1864), 1-70.