Firelight, by James Abbott McNeill Whistler, 1896. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Elizabeth Robins Pennell

(1855 - 1936)

Elizabeth Robins Pennell, born in Philadelphia, was a prolific producer of copy, publishing more than twenty books and thousands of magazine articles, a few co-written with her husband, the artist Joseph Pennell. Subjects included Mary Wollstonecraft; the pleasures of riding a bicycle in various continental locales; the joys of gluttony; her prodigious collection of cookbooks; the famous artists, writers, and intellectuals who visited her London home; and a close examination of one of those visitors, James Abbott McNeill Whistler. A line from William Makepeace Thackeray was her lodestar: “Next to eating good dinners, a healthy man with a benevolent turn of mind must like, I think, to read about them.” The words “encourage me,” she wrote in 1902, “if I need encouragement.”

All Writing