Delarivier Manley  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Mary Delarivier (sometimes spelt Delariviere, Delarivière or de la Rivière) Manley (1663 or c. 1670 - 1724) was an English novelist of amatory fiction, playwright, and political pamphleteer. She was a member, with writers Eliza Haywood and Aphra Behn, of the group known as The Fair Triumvirate of Wit.


Manley was probably born in Jersey, the third of six children of Sir Roger Manley, a royalist army officer and historian, and a woman from the Spanish Netherlands, who died when Delarivier was young. The details of her early life are mostly known from autobiographical accounts which may be unreliable, yet it seems that she and her sister Cornelia moved with their father to his various army postings.

After their father's death in 1687, the girls became wards of their cousin, John Manley (1654-1713), a Tory MP. John Manley had married a Cornish heiress and, later, bigamously, married Delarivier. They had a son in 1691, also named John. In January 1694 Manley left her husband and went to live with Lady Castlemaine, at one time the mistress of Charles II. She remained there only six months, at which time she was expelled by the duchess for allegedly flirting with her son.

During the period of 1694-1696 Manley travelled extensively in England, principally in the south-west. At this time she wrote her first play, a comedy, The Lost Lover, or, The Jealous Husband (1696). There is some indication that she may have been by then reconciled with her husband, for a time.

Manley's satirical attacks on the Whigs at one point resulted in payment from the then Prime Minister Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Mortimer.

Her texts currently receive considerable attention from feminist literary critics because they are widely considered to offer an early or proto-feminist perspective and to deal thematically with the reification of the female body, and the validity of a female point of view. This was radical for the time, as was her life.


She also edited Jonathan Swift's Examiner. In her writings she played with classical names and spelling. She was an uninhibited and effective political writer.


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