From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
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.
- Letters written by Mrs Manley (1696)
- The Lost Lover or The Jealous Husband (1696), a comedy
- The Royal Mischief (1696), a tragedy
- Secret History of Queen Zarah and the Zarazians (1705)
- Almyna, or the Arabian Jew (1707), a tragedy
- Secret Memoirs and Manners of Several Persons of Quality of Both Sexes, from the new Atlantis, an island in the Mediterranean (1709), a satire in which great liberties were taken with Whig notables
- Memoirs of Europe towards the Close of the Eight Century. Written by Eginardus (1710)
- A True Narrative of What Passed at the Examination of the Marquis of Guiscard (1711)
- Court Intruigues in a Collection of Original Letters from the Island of the New Atalantis (1711)
- The Adventures of Rivella, or the History of the Author of The New Atalantis (1714)