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Eden, Emily

Eden, Emily
Sister of Governor-General (1797-1869)

The seventh daughter of Baron Auckland, Emily accompanied her brother, Lord Auckland to India during the period he was Governor General from 1835-42. Her letters to her sister, published in 1866 as ‘Up the Country’, reflect her acid wit and keen observation of her surroundings. She was a skilled water colourist and throughout her stay in India made a large number of paintings which are now in the Victoria Memorial Hall, Calcutta. Emily had a unique opportunity to draw the people of India when she and her sister, Fanny, accompanied their brother on his long tour upcountry from Calcutta to meet Ranjit Singh, ruler of Punjab. Infact, Ranjit Singh gave her a personal sitting for making his portrait.

She moved in prominent Whig circles and was a close friend of Melbourne. When Melbourne appointed her brother governor-general of India in 1835, she accompanied him, travelled with him, and acted as his hostess, which she continued to do after his return until his death in 1849. She published Portraits of the People and Princes of India (1844) and Up the Country (1866); Letters from India appeared in 1872, and a collection of her letters edited by her great-niece Violet Dickinson in 1919. Her two novels The Semi-detached House (1859, anon.) and The Semi-attached Couple (1860, by E.E.’), written some 30 years earlier, both deal with fashionable society, and combine shrewd perception, wit, and good nature; their plots and characterization owe much to J. Austen, whom she greatly admired and frequently mentions. They are a valuable record of social life, shedding a revealing light on attitudes to marriage, politics, and manners, and have been several times reprinted, most recently in 1979.

Source: The Oxford Companion to English Literature –
© Margaret Drabble and Oxford University Press 1995

 Additional Information

Emily was born in Westminster. She was the seventh daughter of William Eden, 1st Baron Auckland, and the great-great-great-aunt of Anthony Eden. As a young lady, she and her sister Fanny traveled to India, where her brother George Eden, 1st Earl of Auckland was in residence there as Governor-General from 1835-42. She wrote accounts of her time in India, latter collected in the volume Up The Country: Letters Written to Her Sister from the Upper Provinces of India (1867). She also wrote two very successful novels, The Semi-Detached House (1859) and The Semi-Attached Couple (1860). The second novel, The Semi-Attached Couple, 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. Emily never married and was financially well off enough that she did not need to write but did so out of passion for the art.


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