Martin, Selina, c.1780—1859
Selina Martin was born around 1780 in Ballymoyer, Co. Armagh, Ireland, a daughter of the Rev. Robert Martin (1730-1796), Rector of Ballymoyer, and Sarah Martin, née Gaskell (1748-1796). Nothing is known about her early life in Ireland, but she was close to her elder sister Anne Elizabeth Martin (1770-1850), and remained so after Anne Elizabeth Martin’s marriage to Sir Walter Synnot (1742-1821) on 10 August 1804. Selina Martin’s niece by this marriage, Anne (‘Anny’) Elizabeth Synnot (1807-1821), was a particular favourite.
Selina Martin suffered a protracted period of ill-heath from around 1816. In that year, her sister and brother-in-law had commenced a family tour to Italy where they intended to educate their children. When Selina Martin had recovered, she set off alone from Ireland in March 1819 to join them, travelling with letters to bankers and merchants, but neglecting to bring a passport. Her subsequent Narrative of a Three Years’ Residence in Italy (1828) recounts these adventures, her reunion with her family in Rome, their travels to Naples and back, and, most plangently, the illnesses suffered by ‘Anny’, her death in January 1821, and that of her father, Sir Walter Synnot, the following August. Published six years after the close of this residence abroad, Narrative serves as a warning to English parents against subjecting their children to foreign travel, while striking the keynote in Martin’s subsequent work: Christian resignation and faith.
Her chief publications after Narrative were pious tales and works of children’s fiction, such as Little Georgiana; or, Conversations for Children (1829), Eglantine; or the Flower that Never Fades (1830), The Protestant Rector (1830), Georgiana and Her Father (1832), A Sister’s Stories (1833), and Christian Freedom (1833). The influence of Hannah More, already quoted in Narrative, is unmistakable, and by 1834 Selina Martin was residing at Clapham Common, associated with the Clapham Sect of evangelical Anglicans. She also became friends with Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna (1790-1846), who shared many of her religious principles and who wrote the preface to Martin’s Sketches of Irish History (1844).
From the 1840s until her death, Selina Martin published only Sketches, Summary of Irish History (1847) and Confirmation Scripturally Explained (1855). Despite making her name with her Narrative, she wrote nothing more in travel genres. She died on 20 November 1859 in Maidstone, at the residence of her great-nephew, the Rev. J. C. Matthews.
Martin, Selina. Narrative of a Three Years’ Residence in Italy, 1819-1822. London: John Murray. 1828.
The Morning Post, no. 26816 (Tues., 29 Nov. 29 1859): 8. 19th Century British Library Newspapers, Part II: 1800-1900. Gale Databases.
‘Selina Sarah Martin’. The Rex Sinnott Site: Genealogy of the Sinnott and Related Families. Online.
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