Emily Eden (3 March 1797 – 5 August 1869) was an English poet and novelist who gave witty accounts of English life in the early 19th century.
In her late thirties, she and her sister Fanny travelled to India, where her brother George Eden, 1st Earl of Auckland was in residence there as Governor-General from 1835 to 1842. She wrote accounts of her time in India, later collected in the volume Up The Country: Letters Written to Her Sister from the Upper Provinces of India (1867). While the emphasis of her Indian writings was on travel descriptions, local colour and details of the ceremonial and social functions that she attended, Eden also provided a perceptive record of the major political events that occurred during her brother's term of office. These included the total destruction of a British/Indian army during the retreat from Kabul in 1842; a disaster for which George Eden was held partly responsible.
Eden also wrote two very successful novels, The Semi-Detached House (1859) and The Semi-Attached Couple (1860). The latter was written in 1829 but not published until 1860. Both novels have a comic touch that critics have compared with Jane Austen, who was Emily's favorite author. In addition, her letters were published by Violet Dickinson, a close friend of Virginia Woolf. The letters contain some memorable comments on English public life, most famously her welcome for the new King William IV: "an immense improvement on the last unforgiving animal (George IV)—this man at least wishes to make everybody happy."
Emily Eden never married and was financially well enough off not to need to write, but did so out of passion. After the death of Caroline Lamb, mutual friends hoped she might marry Lord Melbourne, who had become a close friend, although she claimed to find him "bewildering" and to be shocked by his profanity. Melbourne's biographer Lord David Cecil remarks that it might have been an excellent thing if they had married, but "love is not the child of wisdom, and neither of them wanted to."
- Marian Fowler. Below the Peacock Fan: First Ladies of the Raj. Viking, 1987. ISBN 0-670-80748-6. The first of the four sections is an account of Eden's years in India.
- John Pemble, editor. Miss Fane in India. Allan Sutton Publishing, 1985. ISBN 0-86299-240-0. Accounts of Emily Eden, her sister and Lord Auckland appear in Miss Fane's letters written to her paternal aunt back in England.
- Mary Ann Prior. An Indian Portfolio: the Life and Work of Emily Eden. Quartet Books, 2012. ISBN 9780704372177. A comprehensive study of Emily Eden's life with emphasis on the paintings she produced in India from 1836 to 1842.