Entry TypePerson
ForenamesEleanor Anne
Also Known AsFranklin, Eleanor
Epithetpoet and first wife of explorer Sir John Franklin
Gender IdentityFemale
HistoryEleanor Anne Porden was born on 14 July 1795, the younger of the two surviving children of William Porden, a distinguished architect, designer of Eaton Hall, Cheshire, and of the Rotunda at Brighton, and his wife, Mary, née Plowman. Eleanor was educated privately and under the immediate direction of her father, and was not confined to a conventional female curriculum but was encouraged to read widely on many different subjects. She was fluent in French and studied Greek and Latin. She took a keen interest in architecture, history, literature, and the scinces in general. From the age of nine she regularly attended lectures given by Humphry Davy, James Edward Smith, and other leading society scientists chemistry, geology, natural history, and botany at the fashionable Royal Institution in Albemarle Street.

She formed a particularly strong bond with her father, who encouraged his daughter's talents in the field of poetry. When Eleanor became a teenager in 1808, the two of them together formed a literary circle with like-minded family friends and acquaintances, which became known as the Attic Society. From December 1808 regular meetings of the society were held, at which poems and verses submitted by members were read out aloud. These verses were gathered together, one for for each meeting, in booklets entitled The Attic Chest. These meetings were held for almost 10 years. With help from her father, Eleanor took on the editorship of the Attic Chest and contributed many verses herself.

She made her name as a poet with the publication in 1815 of "The Veils, or, The Triumph of Constancy", a long, erudite poem written when she was sixteen, an allegory on the acquistion of scientific knowldge. The poem was well received critically, especially in France, where she was elected a member of the Institut de Paris. Other poems followed, "The Arctic Expeditions" (1818) and "Coeur de Lion, or, The Third Crusade" (1822), as well as occasional shorter pieces, including an ode on the coronation of George IV, who had earlier employed her father for buildings in Brighton.

Although she had an older sister, Sarah Henrietta, the difference in ages was almost 10 years. After Sarah Henrietta married in 1805, it fell to Eleanor to be the one to nurse her mother, who was an invalid for fourteen years until her death in 1819. Although she was intellectually gifted, she was also practical minded as well, being able to undertake all the domestic arts expected of women at that time. In spite of her nursing duties, Eleanor did travel with her father to the continent on a couple of occasions, in 1816 and 1818. She was not by nature a particular gregarious person and was quite shy and reserved in public, In January 1819 she met another shy and reserved person, John Franklin. He was one of the commanders of the Arctic expeditions ships she had visited prior to their departure and had written a poem about, which was soon published. He had seen the poem, been impressed and arrangde to meet its author through mutual friends, the Thomsons. It was apparent early on that they formed a strong attachment to each other very quickly, but when Franklin left three months later on his first Arctic land expedition, the subject of becoming engaged had not been raised.

When Franklin returned to England late in 1822, both of them realised that his absence had not lessened the feelings they had for each other. Eleanor's father had died not long before Franklin returned, and the two formed a closer relationship and they became engaged to marry. In spite of their strong affection and attraction to each other, the period of engagement was not without its problems, as the lively, intelligent and independently-minded Eleanor came up against the rather formal, old-fashined and prudish side of his character. There were issues over his apparent initial reluctance for her to continue with her literary pursuits and their different religious outlooks and opinions, but they were able to resolve their differences, largely because he was prepared to give ground and provide reassurance to her concerns.

On 6 August 1823 Eleanor Porden married John Franklin at St Mary's Church in Marylebone, London. They set up home at 55 Devonshire Street, coincidentally the sam ehouse she was born in. On 3 June 1824 their daughter was born, christened Eleanr Isabella. Franklin's wife had not always been in good health for many years, being particularly troubled by a persistently bad cough since childhood. Following the birth she became increasingly weaker. By the end of the year it had become apparent that she was unlikely to survive, believed to be probably suffering from tuberculosis, or consumption as it was more commonly know then. Franklin had been preparing to undertake his second Arctic land expedition, which was due to leave in February 1825. After much soul-searching and after being told by Eleanor not to abandon his expedition for her sake, he left England for the north on 16 Feb 1825. She died at home on 22 February 1825. At the post mortem it was confirmed that she had indeed been suffering from tuberculosis.
RelationshipsDaughter of architect William Porden; first wife of Sir John Franklin.
Authorised Form of NamePorden; Eleanor Anne (1795-1825); poet and first wife of explorer Sir John Franklin

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