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Harriet Martineau’s Musings on Tynemouth

Harriet Martineau was a pioneering Enlightenment thinker. Primarily a feminist and abolitionist, she was at the centre of intellectual society of her day, was a friend of Princess Victoria, and famous in both Britain and America.

Through her illustrated pamphlets, which outsold the works of Charles Dickens, she both educated the public in political economy and sociology, and influenced government policy .

She lived from 1802 to 1876 and was plagued by ill health throughout her life. Thus in 1840 she retired to Tynemouth for five years in order to convalesce.

Priors Haven Carmichael painting

This is what she wrote about the place from her room, equipped with a telescope, at 57 Front Street.

Here, she is looking across what is now Prior’s Park to South Shields and imagining the old salmon weirs in Prior’s Dene (The Howlings). Presumably she had recently viewed the Elizabethan map of the place, which was being reproduced around 1830.

On the benefits of winter at the Coast.

Twilight scene at the Short Sands

Then, lamenting the rough winter weather, she describes ships wrecked upon the Black Middens and Herd Sands.

Carmichael lifeboat painting, Off Tynemouth

From Life in the Sick-room: Essays by an Invalid (1844) poetry submissions ad

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