The other Margaret Roberts

Margaret Roberts was a novelist from North Wales ( 1833 – 1919) author of at least 38 books of fiction and non-fiction, including  Mademoiselle Mori and The Atelier du Lys (An Art Student in the Reign of Terror). She spent her middle years in Torquay and this letter addressed from Florence Villas to a Miss Franks reveals her to be quite a bluestocking and also something of an entrepreneur.

We know, for instance, that she wrote Mademoiselle Mori in Italian (all but the last chapter) and then translated it into English, but the letter tells us that she was also proficient in  'advanced'French. It seems that she was planning to promote classes in German and French aimed at ‘governesses and others who cannot manage Cambridge terms‘ and asked Ms Franks if she knew of any such people who could benefit from learning a new language. She had already recruited two tutors—one from St Mary Church at 10/- a year , and another from Newton Abbot at 15/- a year. She herself would offer her services at 10/- a year.

She tells Ms Franks that she had previously given free classes in French, but few members had paid; however she had also conducted classes at 5/- for those governesses who were ‘unable to pay more.' Her namesake the late Margaret Thatcher (born Margaret Roberts) would have approved of such diligence. (R.H)

Her books are now collected along with other lesser Victorian women writers, although she is omitted from Sutherland's Victorian Fiction and most other sources. Her books were assiduously collected by Robert Lee Wolff the great expert on Victorian novels. He had most of her works, many in presentation to her step-niece Helen Latham. Mademoiselle Mori is about a woman artist caught up in the 1849 revolution in Rome…Wolff had a fine copy.

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