Doc Chat Fifty-Three: The Misses Porter, Sister Novelists in the Age of Jane Austen

By Julie Golia, Associate Director, Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Books and Charles J. Liebman Curator of Manuscri
May 29, 2022
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

On April 21, 2022, Doc Chat explored the lives and papers of two sisters who were prolific and celebrated writers at the turn of the 19th century. 

Black and white engraving of Scottish writer Jane Porter

J. Thomson after G. Harlow. Miss Jane Porter, undated. NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 1817842.

weekly series from NYPL's Center for Research in the Humanities, Doc Chat pairs an NYPL curator or specialist and a scholar to discuss evocative digitized items from the Library's collections and brainstorm innovative ways of teaching with them. In Episode Fifty-Three, NYPL's Charles Cuykendall Carter and Jane Austen scholar Devoney Looser examined manuscripts from the papers of Jane Porter, the 18th-19th century Scottish historical novelist whose fame once rivaled Walter Scott's. Carter and Looser discussed Porter's unusually large archival collection and ways of re-examining the lives and careers of both Jane Porter, and her younger sister Anna Maria Porter, also a writer.

A transcript of this episode is available here.

Below are some handy links to materials and sources suggested in the episode.

Episode Fifty-Three: Primary Sources

Charlie and Devoney examined the following documents:

Black and white engraving of Anna-Maria Porter

T. Woolnoth after G. Harlow. Anna-Maria Porter, undated; NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 1817947.

Handwritten letter from Jane Porter to Anna Maria Porter

Jane Porter to Anna Maria Porter, autograph letter signed, August 14, 1816; NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 58313941. Call number: Pforz MS (PORT 16.08.08B).


Handwritten letter from Dora Macdonald to Jane Porter

Dora Macdonald, Lady Macdonald to Jane Porter, autograph letter signed, May 15, 1848; NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 58325061. Call number: Pforz MS (PORT 48.05.15).


Handwritten manuscript of Character of the late Mary Robinson by Jane Porter

Jane Porter, "Character of the late Mary Robinson," holograph manuscript. Circa 1800; NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 58299639. Call number: Pforz MS (PORT 00D).

Handwritten letter from James Stanier Clark to Jane Porter

James Stanier Clarke to Jane Porter, autograph letter signed, March 24, 1821; NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 58303449. Call number: Pforz MS (PORT 21.03.24).

Handwritten letter from Charles Rivers to Jane Porter

Charles Rivers to Jane Porter, autograph letter signed, February 16, 1804; NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 58299799. Call number: (PORT 04.02.16).

Jane Porter, The Scottish Chiefs from the Classics Illustrated series, #67 (Gilberton Co., 1950).

Jane Porter, The Scottish Chiefs: A Romance (Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, 1810).

Learn more about conducting research in the Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle

Episode Fifty-Three: Readings and Resources

Paula Byrne, Perdita: The Literary, Theatrical, Scandalous Life of Mary Robinson (Random House, 2006). 

Ruth Knezevich and Devoney Looser, “Jane Austen’s Afterlife, West Indian Madams, and the Literary Porter Family: Two New Letters from Charles AustenModern Philology, Vol. 112, no. 3 (2015), 554-68.

Devoney Looser, “Jane Porter and the Old Woman Writer’s Quest for Financial Independence,” Women Writers and Old Age in Great Britain, 17501850 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 141-67.

Devoney Looser, Sister Novelists: The Trailblazing Porter Sisters, Who Paved the Way for Austen and the Brontës (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2022).

Thomas McLean, “Jane Porter’s Later Works, 1825-1846Harvard Library Bulletin, Vol. 20, no. 2 (Summer 2009), 45-63. 

Jane Porter and Anna Maria Porter, Coming Out; and The Field of Forty Footsteps (Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, 1828). 

Jane Porter, Thaddeus of Warsaw: A Novel, edited by Thomas McLean and Ruth Knezevich (Edinburgh University Press, 2019).

Jane Porter, The Scottish Chiefs, edited by Fiona Price (Broadview Press, 2007).

Mary Robinson, Selected Poems, edited by Judith Pascoe (Broadview Press, 1999).

More Doc Chats in Fall 2022!

Doc Chat has wrapped its Spring 2022 season.  You can catch up on past episodes and explore helpful resources on the Doc Chat Channel of the NYPL blog. We'll kick off another lively and thought-provoking season this fall. Make sure you don't miss an episode by signing up for NYPL's Research newsletter.