Let Her Speak for Herself: Nineteenth-Century Women Writing on the Women of Genesis

By Marion Ann Taylor; Heather E. Weir | Go to book overview

§22 Frances Elizabeth King
(1757–1821)

Frances Elizabeth King was born in Lincoln, England, the eighth child of Sir Francis Bernard, baronet, provincial lawyer and governor of New Jersey, and his wife, Amelia.8 King was educated at home by her older sister, Jane, and her guardian while the rest of the family lived in America. In 1782, against her family's wishes, she married Rev. Richard King. The Kings had four children, of whom two died young.

King's writing career began when she authored papers for her brother's reports for the Society for Bettering the Condition and Improving the Comforts of the Poor (SBCP), an organization which she helped to establish. In 1811, King published her popular book Female Scripture Characters to correct the late Rev. Thomas Robinson's omission of women in his book on Scripture characters.9 King likened her interpretive work to that of the apostle Paul.10 Her writing on women brought her into the ongoing discussions featured in popular conduct books of the period written by women and men

7 Here Trimmer may have been using one of the multiple editions of Bishop Symon
Patrick's A Commentary upon the First Book of Moses, called Genesis (London: Printed for R.
Chiswell, 1695). The etymological suggestion Trimmer included has not been accepted by
scholars.

8 Source: an unsigned memoir in the ninth edition of her book, Female Scripture Characters;
Exemplifying Female Virtues
(London: F.C. & J. Rivington, 1813, 1822).

9 Thomas Robinson, Scripture Characters, or a practical improvement of the principal histo-
ries in the Old and New Testament
, 3rd ed. (London, 1793).

10 King wrote of the "dread" that writing the book "excites in her mind," and worried
that after she preached to others, she might be herself a cast-away (1 Cor. 9:27). King asked
her readers to join with her in prayer that "the opportunities they have both enjoyed of gain-
ing divine instruction, may never hereafter rise in condemnation against them" (xii). King's
citation of the concluding verse of Paul's defense of his apostolic authority (1 Cor. 9:1–27),
raises the issue of King's authority for preaching with the pen (Female Scripture Characters;
Exemplifying Female Virtues,
9th ed. "London: F.C. & J. Rivington, 1822", xii). King's book
was put out initially in periodical form. It went through at least twelve editions and became a
school textbook.

-112-

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