Mary de la Riviere Manley

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Mary de la Riviere Manley (1675-1724) was a playwright and novelist.


The daughter of Sir Roger Manley, who was Deputy Lieut-Governor of Jersey from 1667 to 1674, she was born on 7 April 1675, most authorities say in Jersey, but Pope in his Literary Correspondence (1755) says "at sea between Jersey and Guernsey".

Her first months were spent in Mont Orgueil. Her mother died the year after her birth, and her father then took his five children to England on his appointment as Governor of Landguard Fort, Suffolk; so not much more than a year of her life was passed in Jersey. Sir Roger died when she was sixteen, and she was trapped into a bigamous marriage with her cousin John Manley, a man 25 years older than herself, whose wife was still alive.

He deserted her, and she became a protegee of Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland, the King's Mistress. When she quarreled with her, she began to write plays, which outrivalled in grossness those of the obscenest playwrights of the period. She became the mistress of Sir Thomas Skipworth of Drury Lane, a married man with many children, and persuaded him in 1696 to put on one of her plays, The Lost Lover, at his theatre; but it was damned on the first night.

Another, The Royal Mischief, produced the same year at Lincoln's Inn Fields, was hardly more successful.


She next became the mistress of John Tilly, Warden of the Fleet, and in 1705 was arrested as an accomplice in the forging of a marriage certificate to obtain for an unmarried girl a widow's dower from a rich estate, but she was released.

Her most notorious book, The Secret Memoirs of Several Persons of Quality from the New Atlantis, an Isle in the Mediterranean, was published in 1709. In this the islanders, whom she accused of scandalous vices, were obviously to be recognized as members of the Whig Ministry. She and her printer, John Barber, whose mistress she now was, were promptly arrested; but there was enough truth in some of her accusations to make the Ministry unwilling to wash its dirty linen in public, and in 1710 the prosecution was dropped.

In 1711 she succeeded Swift as editor of The Examiner. Political pamphlets, plays, and novels poured from her pen. In 1714 she published her highly-coloured autobiography, The Adventures of Rivella, or the History of the Author of The New Atlantis.

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