Sophia Briscoe

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Sophia Briscoe (fl. 1770s) was an 18th-century English novelist. Little is known of her life.


Briscoe was the author of the epistolary novels Miss Melmoth; or the New Clarissa (1771)[1] and The Fine Lady: A Novel (sometimes The Fine Lady; or a history of Mrs. Montague, 1772).[2] Briscoe was paid 20 guineas for the copyright of The Fine Lady.[3] A German translation of The Fine Lady appeared as Die Frau nach der Mode in Leipzig, dated 1771.[4]

Both novels are available in print-on-demand editions. Miss Melmoth was well received in The Critical Review.[5] The Monthly Review mildly commended it.[6] The treatment of incest in Miss Melmoth (Caroline Melmoth shies away from marrying Sir John Evelin instinctively, before discovering their relationship) has been discussed along with other aspects by at least one modern critic.[7]


It has been speculated that The Sylph, a novel published in 1778 that was attributed to Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, was written by Briscoe. A receipt at the British Library suggests that the publisher T. Lowndes paid Briscoe £12 for The Sylph,[8] but it is thought more likely on stylistic grounds that Briscoe simply served as an intermediary between the Duchess and her publisher, so that Georgiana could retain her anonymity.[9] The novel has its champions to this day.[10]

Letter to Pitt?

Little further is known of Sophia Briscoe. It is not possible to say whether the person who wrote from Leyton, Essex, to William Pitt the Younger on 14 December 1797, on the subject of taxation, was the novelist or a namesake.[11]


  1. Samuel Richardson's tragic novel Clarissa had appeared in 1748.
  2. The Gentleman's Magazine. A. Dodd and A. Smith. 1824. pp. 136–. Retrieved 28 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. A Literary History of Women's Writing in Britain, 1660-1789. Cambridge University Press. 7 September 2006. pp. 335–. ISBN 978-1-139-45858-0. Retrieved 28 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. The translation was by Johann Friedrich Junius. Nuremberg City Library (in German): Retrieved 5 October 2014.
  5. Ruth Perry: Novel Relations. The Transformation of Kinship in English Literature, 1748–1818 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004), p. 150n.
  6. No. 45 [1771], p. 74. Reported in Blackwell Reference Online Retrieved 5 October 2014.
  7. Perry..., pp. 150 and 397. The sudden instinctive discovery of a near relative as a plot device is parodied in Jane Austen's Love and Freindship (1790), quoted by Perry (p. 400).
  8. Blackwells...; Li-Ping Geng's review in Eighteenth Century Fiction, Vol. 15 (2003), No. 2. Retrieved 9 October 2014.
  9. Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire (1779). The Sylph. Northwestern University Press. pp. 11–. ISBN 978-0-8101-2229-1. Retrieved 28 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Gothic Wanderer blog (by the American critic Tyler R. Tichelaar) provides a synopsis and analysis. Retrieved 5 October 2014.
  11. Sophia Briscoe to W. Pitt, 14 December 1797. PRO Chatham Papers, Vol. 264, f. 168. Quoted in Dror Wahrman: Imagining the Middle Class... (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995).