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Mary Davys was born in Dublin, Ireland. In 1694, she married the Rev. Peter Davys, master of the free school attached to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and a friend of Jonathan Swift. After being widowed four years later, she moved to London to make a living by her writing. Her earliest published works were not profitable and women writers were looked down upon in that era. She moved to York and received some financial assistance from Swift while she began writing plays. In 1716 her play The Northern Heiress was successfully produced and staged in London. With the proceeds, Mary Davys moved to Cambridge, where she opened a coffeehouse while continuing to write. Her next published novel, The Reform'd Coquet (1724) was sold by subscription and well received. The Accomplish'd Rake (1727) is considered to be her finest work. She continued to run the coffeehouse until her death in 1732. Mary Davys was one of the first English novelists to bring realistic characters and events to the novel, rejecting the fantastic found in French-style romances. She found much of her subject matter in the private world of women's lives and helped establish the unmarried, independent heroine as a prominent figure in 18th-century fiction.
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