Ann Batten Cristall

Ann Batten Cristall (1769-1848), English poet and schoolteacher, was born on 7 December 1769 in Penzance, Cornwall.   Cristall was the second of four children and the eldest daughter of Alexander Cristall and Elizabeth Batten (her brother, Joseph, was a dissenting minister and poet).  Her father was from Monifieth, Scotland, and worked as a mariner, later making sails, masts, and blocks at Fowey and Penzance, where he met Elizabeth Batten, his second wife. The Cristall’s moved to London during Anne’s youth.  Her father had a “dread of the arts,” which did not bode well with his daughter’s preclivity toward poetry.   Her brother, Joshua, enjoyed a relatively modest amount of fame and was a founding member of the Society of Painters in Water Colours (1804), sometimes known as the Old Water Colour Society, of which he became president in 1816.  Both Joshua and Anne were educated in London academies.  Anne eventually became a schoolteacher and earned money in her own right, though she remained somewhat financially attached to her brother, with whom she remained on close terms her entire life. Cristall knew Mary Wollstonecraft and her sister Everina by the late 1780s, and in the mid-1790s met many other London literary figures, such as May Hays and Robert Southey.  In March 1790 Wollstonecraft wrote to Joshua Cristall, “I know that you earnestly wish to be the friend and protector of your amiable sister and hope no inconsiderate act or thoughtless mode of conduct will add to her cares – for her comfort very much depends on you” (Todd 188).  Wollstonecraft seems to have had concerns about Christall at that time, writing again to Joshua on 9 December 1790 (a few days following her twenty-first birthday), “I fear her situation is very uncomfortable. I wish she could obtain a little more strength of mind. I am afraid she gives way to her feelings more than she ought to” (Todd 184). Cristall's Poetical Sketches appeared in 1795, published by Joseph Johnson. Subscribers included Mary and Everina Wollstonecraft, Anna Barbauld, Amelia Alderson, Samuel Rogers, Mary Hays, and George Dyer. Dyer in particular praised Cristall for her talent with poetry and suggested that she and Hays collaborate on a novel. 

Until recently, little was known of Cristall’s later life.  She left London around 1800, and then, as chronicled by Charlotte MacKenzie,  lived at Maidenhed Thicket, Berkshire; Haileybury, Hertfordshire, most likely with her sister and the family of her cousin, Rev. Joseph Hallett Batten, who was a professor at Haileybury College; and finally at Lewisham Hill, Blackheath (just south of Greenwich), with her sister, Elizabeth.  She died on 9 February 1848 at the age of seventy-eight.  She was buried at St. Mary’s Church, Islington, with a memorial inscription (the same church in which Elizabeth Hays Lanfear was buried). For more on Christall, see Paula R. Feldman, ”Anne Batten Cristall (1769-1848),” in British Women Poets of the Romantic Era: An Anthology (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP, 1997, 213-15; Richard Greene, “Cristall, Ann Batten (bap. 1769, D. 1848),” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004); Roger Lonsdale, “Anne Batten Cristall,” Eighteenth Century Women Poets: An Oxford Anthology (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1990), 484; Richard C. Sha, “Cristall, Ann Batten,” in The Encyclopedia of Romantic Literature, ed. Frederick Burwick (Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), 310-312; and Janet Todd, Collected Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft, ed. Janet M. Todd (Chichester: Columbia UP, 2003), 150ff.  For background on Cristall's Cornish background and connections and a detailed look at her later life, see Charlotte MacKenzie, "Cornish Connections with 1790s Radical and Literary Circles: Part 2," at Cornish Story,