Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder
… is a quote that is well known to all of us and was originally penned by Margaret Wolfe Argles Hungerford [H.2a=] (born 27 April 1859) in her book Molly Bawn1, the story of a flirtatious and petulant Irish girl, who arouses her lover’s jealousy and naively ignores social conventions.
Shortly after Margaret’s death on 24 January 1897, her husband, Thomas Henry Hungerford [H.2a], wrote a moving letter to his sister Alys Hungerford [H.1a]: see HAFS Journal Vol 14 No 4.
Born as Margaret Wolfe Hamilton on 27 April 1855, she started writing at a youthful age, writing while at school and winning various competitions. She experienced childhood in Rosscarbery, in Co Cork, Ireland, where her father was a Church of Ireland minister. In 1872, at 17 years old, she wedded and moved to Dublin, where she had three children. She became a widow at 23 years old, came back to Rosscarbery, and soon began publishing using the nom de plume “The Duchess”. She published at least 57 works.
Margaret Wolfe Hungerford wasn’t a duchess, yet she frequently published under the name, The Duchess, particularly from early in her career. Generally writing in anonymity, like many women of her period, the late 19th century novelist is still celebrated today. The Duchess Who Wasn’t Day is celebrated every year on August 27 to recognize Margaret’s life, times, and works. It is unclear why August 27 was picked to respect her, as it isn’t her birth or death day.
To read some more about Margaret Hungerford, see this article by Maeve O’Sullivan from The Irish Story.