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Hester Mulso Chapone

(b. Oct. 27, 1727, Twywell, Northamptonshire – d. Dec. 25, 1801, Monken Hadley, Barnet, London )

Gender: F

Hester Mulso (1727-1801) was the only daughter of Thomas Mulso (1695-1763) and Hester Thomas (d.1747), sister of John Thomas, who became Bishop of Winchester. (Thomas’s sister Susan Mulso married the Bishop.) Her father was a lawyer and Clerk of Assize; they lived in Twywell, Northamptonshire, until she was four years old, when the family moved to London. She had four brothers, who became respectively a barrister, a clergyman, a naval officer and an excise officer. She was given a limited education, but began to read widely after the death of her mother in 1747. In 1750 she was introduced to the novelist Samuel Richardson and joined the circle of ladies who advised him on his plots: these included Catherine Talbot, Sarah Fielding and Sarah Chapone. She also met Elizabeth Carter in 1749, and they maintained a lifelong friendship; Carter included an Ode by Hester in the first edition of her Epictetus. Carter introduced her to Elizabeth Montagu around 1762. Hester met John Chapone, an attorney, in 1750 and they became engaged in 1754. The engagement lasted six years, since her father was not prepared to consent to the marriage until Chapone’s financial situation improved. She was aged thity-three at the time of their marriage in 1760, but her husband died ten months later, and she spent forty years as a widow. In 1773, Hester published a conduct book entitled Letters on the Improvement of the Mind, that had originally been written for her eldest niece, Jenny Mulso. Elizabeth Montagu helped to find subscribers for the book, which Hester dedicated to her. It proved to be a great success: the first print-run of 1,500 sold out immediately and a second edition appeared in the same year. There were over sixteen editions during Hester’s lifetime, but she gained no financial benefit from them other than an initial £50 from the publisher, and lived in straitened circumstances. Elizabeth Montagu granted her an annuity of £100 in 1775, and other women in her circle helped to support her. In 1775 she published a second work, Miscellanies in Prose and Verse, from which she earned £250. She became an invalid in her later years and died at the age of 74.

Also known as:

  • Hester Chapone (née  Mulso)

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Please note that all dates and location information are provisional, initially taken from the library and archive catalogues. As our section editors continue to work through the material we will update our database and the changes will be reflected across the edition.