The writer known primarily as "The Duchess" was born Margaret Hamilton in Cork, Ireland, the daughter of a clergyman. She began writing as a child. At age 18, she wrote the novel Phyllis, which became a bestseller when it was published in 1877; many of her subsequent books were advertised as "by the author of Phyllis." In 1872, she married Edward Argles, a solicitor, whose death less than six years later left her with three daughters to support. In 1883, she remarried to Thomas Henry Hungerford, master of a large estate at St. Brenda's in Bandon, County Cork. Beginning in the mid-1870s, Mrs. Hungerford published more than 35 novels, many of them set in Ireland, using "The Duchess" as her pen name. These included Molly Bawn (1878), which contained the famous line, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," and A Little Irish Girl (1891). Most were light romantic fiction but some, such as Lady Verner’s Flight (1893), were more serious about Victorian women and their experience of marriage. Her work was extremely popular both in the UK and the USA, although literary critics thought it somewhat shallow. In 1897, at the height of her success, Mrs. Hungerford died of typhoid fever.