Lucy Aikin was the daughter of a physician, Unitarian and author, John Aikin, who resided in Great Yarmouth in the 1780s. She was born at Warrington and moved to Great Yarmouth at the age of three years. She moved with her parents to Stoke Newington when she was eleven years of age, where she lived until the death of her father in 1822, when she moved to Hampstead.
Lucy Aikin, in her early life, was a diligent student of French, Italian and Latin and at the age of 17 years she began to contribute articles to magazines and reviews. When she was 29 years old, she published her first significant work, The Epistles on Women. She gained her reputation by writing historical biography. She was, like other members of her family, a Unitarian. At Great Yarmouth, because of her Unitarianism, she suffered persecution as child, along with her father. While living in Hampstead she began corresponding over a period of 16 years with a fiery Boston Unitarian preacher, named William Ellery Channing, who was known for giving passionate sermons.
Like her aunt, Anna Laetitia Barbauld (a writer of poetry, essays and children's books), Lucy Aikin was interested in early education, and as such published several works to assist young readers by using words of one syllable. She also published under the pseudonyms Mary Godolphin, I. F. M. and J. F. W.
Lucy Aikin died at the age of 83 years in January 1864. She was buried in the churchyard at Hampstead.
Lucy Aikin write a memoire of her father in which she relates about life in Great Yarmouth and her journey from Warrington. I had just completed my third year when my father decided on a removal from Warrington to Yarmouth. My grandmother, her maid, my little brother, and myself were packed into a post chaise; my father accompanied us on horseback. It was Christmas week, the snow deep on the ground; the whole distance was 240 miles across country, and we were six days in accomplishing it. The last night we arrived at my aunt’s, Mrs. Barbauld’s house at Palgrave, where my grandmother remained behind with manifest symptoms of decay. She died a few days later of cold and fatigue. Later Lucy Aikin wrote; the arrival of a new physician in Yarmouth, already a writer of some distinction, of polished unaffected manners and endowed with powers and tact that rendered his conversations attractive and acceptable to all, was an event of no small importance in the town. His speedy popularity was reflected upon all members of his family. I was soon in danger of being totally spoiled by flattery. My excellent mother taught me what flattery was and strongly warned me against being led away by it. My first view of the ocean from Yarmouth Jetty filled my little bosom with sentiments too big for utterances and the sea was my never failing source of wonder and delight. The flat sandy land extending to the beach was our daily walk, but so much keener was my delight, when we accompanied my father in his professional drives through the shady lanes of rural villages on the Suffolk side of the town. My father was an admirable observer of nature; not a plant, not a bird, not a wild animal escaped him, and he knew them all and taught his children to know them too.
Lucy Aikin, described the migration from Great Yarmouth to London as a blessed change from Yarmouth. Lucy also wrote at the time: I have sat for the whole evening at children’s parties in Yarmouth while others were dancing. Nobody would dance with me, as I was a Presbyterian. I have been pushed, hunted and even struck, as I stood silent and helpless to the cry of Presbyterianism.
Selected works by Lucy Akin:
1801: Poetry for Children: Consisting of Short Pieces to be Committed to Memory 1804: The Travels of Rolando by Louis Francois Jauffret (translated from the French)
1810: Epistles on Women, Exemplifying their Character and Condition in Various Ages and Nations, with Miscellaneous Poems
1811: Juvenile Correspondence or Letters, Designed as Examples of the Epistolary Style, for Children of Both Sexes
1812: Jean Gaspard Hess’s The Life of Ulrich Zwingli (translated from the French) 1814: Lorimer, a Tale (her only novel)
1818: Memoirs of the Court of Queen Elizabeth, published in several editions 1822: Memoirs of the Court of James I
1823: Memoir of John Aikin, MD
1825: The Works of Anna Laetita Barbauld
1827: The Life of Anne Boleyn
1828: An English Lesson Book, for the Junior Classes
1833: Memoirs of the Court of Charles I
1843: The Life of Joseph Addison
1858: The Acts of Life: of Providing Food, of Providing Clothing, of Providing Shelter 1858: Holiday Stories for Young Readers
Works attributed to her as Mary Godolphin:
1867: Robinson Crusoe: In Words of One Syllable
1868: Sandford and Merton: In Words of One Syllable
1868: An Evening at Home: In Words of One Syllable
1869: Aesop's Fables: In Words of One Syllable
1869: The Pilgrim's Progress: In Words of One Syllable
1869: The Swiss Family Robinson: In Words of One Syllable
1870: The One Syllable Sunday Book, etc.