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Susannah Dobson

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Name  Susannah Dobson

Died  1795

Susannah Dobson née Dawson (died 1795) was an English translator, from the south of England, the daughter of John Dawson of "the parish of St Dunstan, London". She was particularly concerned with the 14th-century Italian humanist Petrarch.



Susannah Dawson married in 1759 a physician and medical writer, Dr Matthew Dobson of Liverpool, where she wrote her Life of Petrarch. He died in Bath, Somerset in 1784. Their three children were Susannah (b. 1764), Dawson (b. 1766), and Elisa (1760/61–1778). It has also been suggested that Susannah Dawson was born in Toxteth, near Liverpool, in 1742.

Frances Burney mentions that in 1780 Susannah Dobson was ambitious to get into Mrs Thrale's circle, but the latter was not keen: "Mrs Dobson... persecutes me strangely as if with violent & undesired Friendship; yet Mrs Lewis says She is jealous." One modern view of what Thrale wrote is that it implied Dobson was a Lesbian. Burney wrote of her, "Though coarse, low-bred, forward, self-sufficient, and flaunting, she seems to have a strong masculine understanding." Dr Dobson had become Mrs Thrale's physician. Samuel Johnson, however, praised her as "the Directress of rational conversation".

Susannah Dobson died 30 September 1795, and was buried at St Paul's, Covent Garden.


In 1775 Dobson published in two volumes her Life of Petrarch, collected from "Mémoires pour la vie de François Petrarch" (by Jacques-François de Sade). According to a modern account, in "rendering down the Abbé de Sade's massive French original, she probes the actions and feelings of another age." Among her contemporaries who praised it were the novelists Clara Reeve and Elizabeth Benger. It was reprinted in 1777, and several times up to a sixth edition in 1805. She claimed in 1780 that it had earned her £400. Her second work was a translation of Sainte-Palaye's Literary History of the Troubadours, 1779. In 1784 she translated the same author's Memoirs of Ancient Chivalry, and in 1791 Petrarch's De remediis utriusque fortunae, as Petrarch's View of Human Life.

Also ascribed to Susannah Dobson are the anonymous didactic Dialogue on Friendship and Society (1777) and Historical Anecdotes of Heraldry and Chivalry, an original scholarly work published in Worcester (1795).


Susannah Dobson Wikipedia