Mary Chandler was born in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, in 1687. She was the eldest daughter of Henry Chandler, a dissenting minister who later at moved to Bath, Somerset. Her mother was a Miss Bridgman of Marlborough. She had two brothers, John and Samuel Chandler. A spinal deformity made marriage unlikely and family finances compelled her to set up a milliner's shop in Bath before she was twenty years old, where she wrote rhyming riddles and poems to friends. Though she had only a nominal education, she read and studied modern and ancient writers to make up for her lack of schooling. In 1733, encouraged by friends, Chandler published anonymously A Description of Bath, a 322-line survey in heroic couplets about Bath which went through eight editions by 1767. The third edition of 1736 appends a number of additional poems, most of them semi-autobiographical. The second to seventh editions were printed by Samuel Richardson for his brother-in-law, James Leake of Bath, whose bookshop Chandler describes in her poem. A wealthy traveled to her milliner's shop to seek her hand in marriage, but she turned him down, preferring her freedom over marriage and composing a poem to commemorate the event which appeared in the 6th edition of the Description. After thirty-five years, she retired from business and began a poem “On the Attributes of God,” which she never finished. She died on September 11, 1745, after a two-day illness. A seventh edition of her poems was issued in 1755, and an eighth in 1767. She dedicated her book to her brother John, and her “Life” in Theophilus Cibber's Lives of the Poets was written by her brother Samuel.

For more on Chandler, see Janine Barchas, “Chandler, Mary (1687–1745),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (OUP, 2004); and Theophilus Cibber, The Lives of the Poets of Great Britain and Ireland, vol. 5 (London: R. Griffiths, 1753).

Annotated Works

A Description of Bath: a Poem. London: James Leake, 1736. Print.Mary Chandler’s only published work, inscribed to the Princess Amelia, is a volume of collected poetry, containing 19 poems. She dedicates the volume to her brother John Chandler, for whom she claims “it becomes not me, who may be suspected of Partiality, to speak even the Truth of a Brother; for whom I have not only the tenderest Affection, but the sincerest Esteem.” Chandler’s poems are generally divided between poems/ letters to friends and acquaintances or autobiographical pieces. Many of her poems dwell on nature, such as her poems on gardens and her physical description of Bath. Chandler’s personal writing concerning herself, while positive in tone, tend to mention her physical inadequacies or the wish of a better state of being. She ends her volume with the poem “A True Tale,” which humorously details her rejection of a marriage proposal.

This page assisted by Kaitlyn Johnson, Georgia Southern University