Hitchener, Elizabeth

BORN 1782 - DIED 1822

Elizabeth Hitchener was the daughter of an innkeeper and former smuggler. She educated herself and read widely. Elizabeth worked as a schoolmistress at Hurstpierpoint (now Abberton) when she met the young poet Shelley (One of her pupils was a daughter of Shelley's uncle, Captain Pilford). He was 19 at the time and she was 29 and unmarried.

She was tall, dark and handsome and Shelley wasted no time in starting to idolize her. They developed a close intellectual as well as romantic relationship and exchanged lots of letters. He regarded her as a soulmate and as somebody he could educate and who would probably one day live with him and others in a community. Elizabeth helped Shelley with the spreading of copies of "The Devil's Walk". She finally gave up her school to join the shelleys at Lyndmouth, but this turned out to be a huge mistake. They soon got tired of her and even called her "The Brown Demon". They subsequently got rid of her and her relationship with Shelley was destroyed. Back in Hurstpierpoint she was ridiculed and generally regarded as Shelley's mistress (it's unknown if this was true) and soon she moved away.

She worked abroad as a governess and she married an Austrian officer. This marriage was shortlived and after her return to England she started a new school in Edmonton together with her sister. In 1822 she published a poem titled "The Weald of Kent" in which she speaks warmly about her friendship with Shelley and expresses her political views. She published two volumes of poetry, "The Fireside-Bagatelle: Containing Enigmas on the Chief Towns of England and Wales" (London, 1818) and "Enigmas, historical and geographical, by a clergyman's daughter" (completed shortly before her death and published in 1834). Her letters to Shelley were first published in 1890.

Related persons
• was a friend of Shelley, Percy Bysshe

• Holmes, Richard, Shelley, The Pursuit, Penguin Books, London, 1987

Hitler, Alois

Published: 01 Jan 2006
Last update: 11 Feb 2022