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First name also spelled Laetitia

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Laetitia Pilkington, née van Lewen, was born in Ireland, the daughter of Dr. John van Lewen, a Dutch-born physician and obstetrician, and his wife Elizabeth Corry, descended from an aristocratic family. Laetitia began writing poetry as a child. In 1729, at age 19, she married Matthew Pilkington, an impoverished Church of Ireland clergyman with whom she had six children. They became close friends of Jonathan Swift. A few years later, Swift obtained the post of chaplain to the Lord Mayor of London for Mattew Pilkington. Laetitia followed her husband to London in 1733 to accompany him home and found him having an affair with an actress. He tried to place her in compromising situations to justify his own behavior. She wrote in her memoirs, "I could scarcely after regard Mr. Pilkington as a husband, but rather as a man whose property I was, and who would gladly dispose of me to the best bidder." In 1734, he was arrested for political activities and sent back to Dublin. Three years later, Laetitia became involved in a relationship with Robert Adair, a surgeon, and the Pilkingtons went through a bitter divorce. Laetitia moved to London and lived under an assumed name to escape the notoriety. She now began to write for a living. She sold her poetry to James Worsdale and Colley Cibber, who passed it off as their own work. She also helped Samuel Richardson with his novel Clarissa. In 1737, she wrote a feminist prologue for Worsdale's A Cure for a Scold as well as an opera farce called No Death but Marriage. She attempted to set up a printing shop and bookseller's in St. James's. In 1742, she was arrested for debt and imprisoned in the Marshalsea Gaol, but was released with the help of Richardson. She returned to Dublin and produced the work for which she's known today, three volumes of her memoirs. They provide much of the details we know about her literary circle, especially Jonathan Swift.
Disambiguation notice
First name also spelled Laetitia

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