A mother wants the best for her son, but how does she feel if he overleaps her in a profession where she excelled? Before Anthony’s success she was a best-selling travel-writer and novelist, having become a travel-writer almost by chance when her husband, following the failure of his business, sent her to Cincinnati to establish a fancy goods emporium. It inevitably failed, but on her return she recorded her experiences (non too flatteringly) in Domestic Manners of the Americans (1832).
Had she praised America the book might not have sold so well. Frances, to her surprise, found herself a best-selling author at the age of 52 – best-selling but still in debt. Despite recurrent illness – and would it be unkind to say, despite her age? – the indefatigable woman (a family trait: think of Anthony) went on to write an astounding 40 more books in the next 25 years.
Mainly she wrote novels, though she did produce more travel books (Paris and the Parisians in 1835, Vienna and the Austrians in 1838, A Visit to Italy in 1842). Notable among her novels are Michael Armstrong, the Factory Boy (first issued in parts, 1839-40), which was one of the first ‘industrial’ novels, and Vicar of Wrexhill (1837) which, bravely for its time, attacked organised religion. When she died she had restored the family’s finances and had seen two of her sons begin writing novels; Anthony, most famously, and Thomas Adolphus, the now ignored author of some 60 assorted books.