A Winter in Bath, 1796-97: Life Writing and the Irish Adolescent Self




Diary, Gender, Nationality, Adolescene


The diary form affords multiple generations of women with a vehicle for expressing themselves, and is particularly germane to younger writers, developing a voice, and shaping a sense of self as they emerge from childhood. Charting her travels from Ireland to Bath, the manuscript diary (1796–97) of Charity Lecky is exceptionally useful in exploring intersections with other genres, particularly the novel, while also affording us with an adolescent’s observations on life, and on Bath as international marriage market. The categories of youth, gender, and nation all play strong roles in Charity’s evolving sense of self, and enable us to explore these intersections and how they can inform a young person’s sense of worth. Frequently dismissed by male contemporaries as preoccupied only with balls and marriage prospects, the voices of such figures were repeatedly marginalised. This article prioritises both these voices and the diary form itself, and fuses their legitimate interest in courtship with a concern and fascination with national identity, recognising the value of young women’s opinions, and demonstrating how we might better understand the evolution of personal identities through inclusion of such source material.

Author Biography

Amy Prendergast, Trinity

Amy Prendergast is Research Fellow in the School of English, Trinity College Dublin, and author of Literary Salons Across Britain and Ireland in the Long Eighteenth Century (Palgrave, 2015). Her most recent work has appeared in Life Writing (2020); Women’s Writing (2020); and Irish Literature in Transition, 1700–1780 (Cambridge University Press, 2020). She is currently working on her second monograph, provisionally titled Women's Diaries in Ireland, 1760–1810: Narrating Society, Negotiating Selfhood.