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Frances Browne was an Irish poet and novelist, best remembered for her collection of short stories for children: Granny's Wonderful Chair.
She was born at Stranorlar, in County Donegal, Ireland, the seventh child of twelve. She was blind from infancy as a consequence of an attack of smallpox when she was only 18 months old. In her writings, she recounts how she learned by heart the lessons which her brothers and sisters said aloud every evening, and how she bribed them to read to her by doing their chores. She then worked hard at memorising all that she had heard. She wrote her first poem, a version of "The Lord's Prayer", when she was seven years of age.
In 1841, her first poems were published in the Irish Penny Journal and in the London Athenauem. One of those included in the Irish Penny Journal was the beautiful lyric, "Songs of Our Land" which can be found in many anthologies of Irish patriotic verse. She published a complete volume of poems in 1844, and a second volume in 1847. The provincial newspapers, especially the Belfast-based Northern Whig reprinted many of her poems and she became widely known as 'The Blind Poetess of Ulster'. In 1845 she made her first contribution to the popular magazine Chambers's Journal and she wrote for this journal for the next 25 years. The first short story that she had published in the Journal was entitled, "The Lost New Year's Gift". It appeared in March 1845 and tells the tragic tale of a poor dressmaker in London. It displays Frances Browne's fine abilities as a storyteller. She also contributed many short stories to magazines that had a largely female readership. For example in the 1850's she made a number of contributions to the "Ladies' Companion", a magazine read by many well-to-do women of the Victorian era. Stories contributed to this magazine included the very amusing "Mrs Sloper's Swan" and an eerie tale set in Co.Fermanagh called "The Botheration of Ballymore."
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