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Mary Alcock (née Cumberland, c. 1742 – 1798) was an English poet, essayist, and philanthropist.

BiographyEdit

Mary Cumberland was the youngest child of Joanna Bentley (1704/5–1775) and Bishop Denison Cumberland (1705/6–1774). Richard Bentley, classicist and master of Trinity College, Cambridge, was her maternal grandfather, and Richard Cumberland (1732–1811), playwright, was her brother.

She spent her childhood in the town of Stanwick, Northamptonshire and in Fulham, Middlesex. In 1762 her family relocated to the Kingdom of Ireland, when Denison Cumberland's father was appointed as chaplain to George Montagu-Dunk, 2nd Earl of Halifax, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. It was there that she married, in or around 1770, although the identity of Alcock, her husband, has not been satisfactorily established.

Her husband's mental health seems to have been fragile and the marriage was probably unhappy. She nursed her parents through long illnesses until their deaths and cared for her seven nieces after the death of her sister Elizabeth Hughes in 1770. A widow by the early 1780s, she moved to Bath, Somerset, where she was part of the literary circle of Lady Anne Miller (1741–1781). She participated in various charitable activities.

Never robust, she died at the age of fifty-seven in Northamptonshire. Her niece Joanna Hughes edited her collected works after her death: some 183 pages of poems and essays. The collection received little critical interest, although subscribers included Charles Burney, Elizabeth Carter, William Cowper, Hannah More, and some members of the royal family.

Selected worksEdit

ResourcesEdit

  • Blain, Virginia, et al., eds. "Alcock, Mary." The Feminist Companion to Literature in English. New Haven and London: Yale UP, 1990. 13.
  • Ellis, Markman. "Alcock , Mary (1741?–1798)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. 19 Jan. 2007.