Mary Leapor

Image by National Gallery of Art, Young Girl Reading c.1868 Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot

Mary Leapor

b. 1722 d. 1746

With walking sick, with curtseys lame, and frighted by the scolding dame, poor Mira once again is seen within the bounds of Goslin-Green. - Mary Leapor 'The Visit'

About Mary Leapor

In spite of needing to earn a living as a kitchen maid and her death from measles at the age of twenty‑four, Mary Leapor left behind a substantial body of work. Her poetry has increasingly come to be seen as witty, insightful and challenging in its depiction of the world women inhabited in the early eighteenth century.

Leapor had some education, but in terms of her literary writing she was partly self-taught and partly encouraged by benevolent female employers. In some of her poems, Leapor assumes the persona of ‘Mira’, writing self-deprecatingly about herself and commenting upon the struggles of women living in a paternalistic society.

Her long poem ‘Crumble Hall’ plays with the genre of ‘country­‑house poetry’, where the magnificence of a wealthy patron’s estate is normally linked to the impressive virtue of its owner. Leapor subverts this tradition by writing from the perspective of a servant within the great household.