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Anna Mary Howitt

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Published : 14 Articles
Pen Names : None
Date of Birth : 15/1/1824
Death : 23/7/1884
Views : 5618

Writer, art student; elder daughter of William and Mary Howitt. Received part of her education in Germany, where the Howitts resided for some years to give their children the advantage of German training; studied painting in London; then, in Munich, under Wilhelm von Kaulbach. Earned some praise for her work as an artist. D. G. Rossetti thought her Gretchen at the Fountain a very good picture—"much better than I fancied she could paint" (Letters, I, 162). A criticism by Ruskin, however, so crushed her spirit that she gave up art, except for the drawings that she produced as a medium after she became a convert to spiritualism. "If only the spirits had let her alone", wrote W. M. Rossetti, "she would have drawn and painted very much better than she ever did under their inspiration" (Some Reminiscences, I, 171). Mrs. Newton Crosland recorded that Miss Howitt "was, I believe, generally acknowledged to be of a higher order of intellect than either of her parents" (Landmarks of a Literary Life, pp. 195-196). Barbara Leigh Smith, who referred to herself as "one of the cracked people of the world", considered her friend Anna Mary also one of "the cracked" (Burton, Barbara Bodichon, p. 92). In 1859 Miss Howitt married Alaric AIfred Watts.


Contributed to Athenaeum, IlIustrated Magazine of Art, and other periodicals. Author of An Art-Student in Munich, 1853; A School of Life, 1855; and an account of her father's work in spiritualism; coauthor, with her husband, of Aurora, 1875, a volume of verse, published anonymously

Through her parents, Miss Howitt was probably acquainted with Dickens. In a letter to her father, March 4, 1857, Dickens wrote that he hoped to find time to call on the Howitts and to see Miss Howitt's pictures.

Miss Howitt's story "The Right One" Dickens found "poor—but I think just passable"; her "May Festival" he thought "very good" (to Wills, July 27, August 10 1851). For all but one of her contributions Miss Howitt was paid less than the standard ratefor some items substantially less, £ 3.10.0, for instance, for a 9-column article.

Author: Anne Lohrli; © University of Toronto Press, 1971.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

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