Dreadful Apprehensions

Clare Bucknell

Until the mid-20th century Jane Collier was known only for a clever satire on how best to irritate people, An Essay on the Art of Ingeniously Tormenting (1753). After her death in 1755 it was considered a shame that she hadn’t tried writing something less rebarbative. Her younger brother Arthur ‘often lamented’, the 1804 editor of the Essay recalled, ‘that a sister possessing such amiable manners, and such abilities, should only be known to the literary world by a satirical work’. It would take another hundred years at least for it to sink in that a man or even a woman might have ‘amiable manners’ and still write a satire; but Collier in fact had written something else, and in a completely different genre – one she’d invented from scratch.

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