Sue Young Histories

Mary Augusta Ward 1851 - 1920

August 12, 2008

Mary Augusta Ward 1851 –
1920 Mary Augusta Ward (1851-1920) was a British novelist who wrote under her married name as Mrs. Humphry Ward.

Mary Augusta Ward was an advocate of homeopathy, and a friend of James John Garth Wilkinson and her name is listed in both of his address books as Ms. Humphry Ward at 25 Grosvenor Place, Carlton. (Swedenborg Archive Address Book of James John Garth Wilkinson dated 1895. _See also Swedenborg Archive _Address Book of James John Garth Wilkinson ‘Where is it’ dated 1.10.1892.).

Mary Augusta Ward was a close friend of Harriet Martineau and Sarah Orne Jewett, and she knew William Ewart Gladstone.

The Mary Ward Centre is still operating today at 42 Queen Square, London WC1N 3AQ

In her book A Writer’s Recollections (In Two Volumes), Volume II, Mary Augusta Ward recalls:

From Mary Augusta Ward, Writer’s Recollections, Volume 2, (1918, republished by Kessinger Publishing, 1 Jun 2004).  [Lady Wemyss

I was sitting next to Francis Richard Charteris 10th Earl of Wemyss Lord Elcho, and he presently discovered that I was absent-minded. And I found him so attractive and so human that I soon told him why. I had left a sick child at home, with a high temperature, and was fidgeting to get back to him.

“What is the matter?—Fever?—throat? Aconite, of course! You’re a homeopath, aren’t you? All sensible people are. Look here—I’ve got a servant with me. I’ll send him with some aconite at once. Where do you live?—in the Parks? All right. Give me your address.”

Out came an envelope and a pencil. A message was sent round the dinner table to Lady Wemyss, whose powerful dreaming face beside the Master lit up at once. The aconite was sent; the child’s temperature went down; and, if I remember right, either one or both of his new medical advisers walked up to the Parks the next day to inquire for him.

So began a friendship which for just twenty years, especially from about 1885 to 1896, meant a great deal to me.

Francis Richard Charteris 10th Earl of Wemyss Lord Elcho, was a British Whig politician and President of the London Homeopathic Hospital until his death.

Mary Augusta Ward lived at 61 Russell Square, just around the corner from the London Homeopathic Hospital.

From Mary Augusta Ward was the daughter of Tom Arnold, a professor of literature, and Julia Sorrell. Her uncle was the poet Matthew Arnold and her grandfather had been Thomas Arnold, the famous headmaster of Rugby School.

Her sister, also called Julia, married Leonard Huxley, the son of Thomas Henry Huxley and their sons were Julian and Aldous Huxley. As a young woman, Mary married Humphry “Thomas” Ward, a writer and editor…

Mary Augusta Ward began her career writing articles for magazines while working on a book for children that was published in 1881 under the title Milly and Olly. Her novels contained strong religious subject matter relevant to Victorian values she herself practised.

Her popularity spread beyond Great Britain to the United States. According to the New York Times, her book Lady Rose’s Daughter was the bestselling novel in the United States in 1903, as was The Marriage of William Ashe in 1905. Her most popular novel by far was the religious “novel with a purpose” Robert Elsmere, which portrayed the religious crisis of a young pastor and his family.

Ward helped establish an organization for working and teaching among the poor and was one of the founders of the Women’s National Anti-Suffrage League in 1908. In this latter vein, some of her writings were under the name “Mrs. Humphry Ward”.

She also worked as an educator in the residential settlements she founded. Mary Ward’s declared aim was ‘equalisation’ in society, and she established educational settlements first at Marchmont Hall and later at Tavistock Place in Bloomsbury. This was originally called the Passmore Edwards Settlement, after its benefactor John Passmore Edwards, but after Ward’s death it became the Mary Ward Settlement.

The Mary Ward Centre continues as an adult education college.

In the summer of 1908 she was asked by George Nathaniel Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston and William Cremer to become the first president of Britain’s Anti-Suffrage League. Ward agreed and took on the job creating editing the Anti-Suffrage Review.

She published a large number of articles on the subject, while two of her novels, The Testing of Diana Mallory and Delia Blanchflower, were used as platforms to criticize the suffragettes.

In a 1909 article in The Times, Ward wrote that constitutional, legal, financial, military, and international problems were problems only men could solve. However, she came to promote the idea of women having a voice in local government and other rights that the men’s anti-suffrage movement would not tolerate.

During World War I, she was asked by Theodore Roosevelt to write a series of articles to explain to Americans what was happening in Britain during the war.

Mary Augusta Ward responded by writing England’s Effort.

In her book Towards the Goal, Theodore Roosevelt wrote the introduction:

Identified on the title page as “Author of ‘England’s Effort,’” she is best known for the tremendous success of her 25 novels. As a means of encouraging America’s entry into the war, Theodore Roosevelt asked her to explain how England made the decision to embrace the war effort.

Ward’s book England’s Effort was the result. Among the transitions that book describes are changes in women’s lives as they left housework to do war work in factories.

Theodore Roosevelt’s Introduction, dated May 1, 1917, from Sagamore Hills, commends Mrs. Ward for writing “nobly on a noble theme” – England’s impressive achievement in the war to prevent a “Prussianised world.”

By describing how England’s “national soul” was awakened to the task, Mrs. Ward, both in this book and in its predecessor, provides an object lesson for America.

“As in America, so in England, a surfeit of materialism had produced a lack of high spiritual purpose in the nation at large,” which nurtured “noxious weeds,” including “professional pacificism.”

Any American who reads the book “must feel a hearty and profound respect for the patriotism, energy, and efficiency shown by the British people when they became awake to the nature of the crisis; and furthermore, every American must feel stirred with the desire to see his country now emulate Britain’s achievment.”

Theodore Roosevelt praises the book both “as a study of contemporary history” and “as an inspiration to constructive patriotism.”


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