This brief account is taken from The Cabinet of Irish Literature (see bibliography), where it prefaces an extract from Kavanagh's novel, Nathalie, a work which is thought to have influenced Charlotte Brontë's Villette. The two novelists corresponded, and met in London in 1850 (see Cooper & Stephan). — Jacqueline Banerjee

Julia Kavanagh was the descendant of two ancient Irish families, and her father, Mr. Morgan Kavanagh, was known as the author of some curious works upon the source and science of languages. She was born at Thurles in 1824, but at an early age she accompanied her parents to London. A lengthened residence in France during her girlhood enabled her to give those graphic descriptions of French life and character in which she so greatly excelled. In her twentieth year she returned to London, and adopted literature as a profession. Her work, The Three Paths, a Story for Young People, appeared in 1847; Madeleine, a Tale of Auvergne, followed in 1848 ; Women in France during the Eighteenth Century next appeared. About 1853 she re-visited France, and travelled through Switzerland and Italy, the result of a prolonged tour being the publication in 1858 of A Summer and Winter in the Two Sicilies. In 1862 French Women of Letters appeared, and met with such a favourable reception as to induce the author to publish in the following year English Women of Letters, as a companion to her former work. Of the novels which flowed from her prolific pen, we may name : Grace Lee, Rachel Gray, Beatrice, Sibyl's Second Love, Dora, Adele, and Queen Mab. She. wrote also an interesting work entitled Women of Christianity.

All Miss Kavanagh's books have passed through several editions, and most of them have been republished in America, where she was a favourite. In a writer so voluminous we must expect a certain amount of inequality; but it can be said with truth that her French tales are exquisite, true to life, delicate in expression, simple, and at the same time refined in style and thoroughly pure in tone. "Her writing," remarks Mr. Charles Wood, from whose interesting sketch in the Athenaeum we take most of our statement, "was quiet and simple in style, but pure and chaste, and characterized by the same high-toned thought and morality that was part of the author's own nature. [113]


Cooper, T., & Stephan, M. "Kavanagh, Julia (1824–1877), novelist and biographer." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Web. 8 April 2021.

Reade, Charles A. / T.P. O'Connor. ">" The Cabinet of Irish Literature: Selections from the Work of the Chief Poets, Orators. And Prose Writers of Ireland, with Biographical Sketches and Literary Notices. Vol. IV. London: Blackie & Son, n.d. Internet Archive. Contributed by the Kelly Library, University of Toronto, Web. 8 April 2021.

Created 7 April 2021