Lady Callcott was born Maria Dundas, the daughter of a British naval officer who served in the Napoleonic wars. When his fighting days were over, he accepted a job with the East India Company and took Maria with him. During the long voyage to Bombay, she met and fell in love with Thomas Graham, a young naval officer. They were married in India in 1809. In 1811, the couple returned to England, where Maria Graham published her first book, Journal of a Residence in India, which was followed by Letters on India. She also worked as a translator and book editor. In 1819, she lived in Italy for a time, and wrote Three Months Passed in the Mountains East of Rome, during the Year 1819. She also wrote a biography of the French painter Nicolas Poussin (1820). The following year, she accompanied her husband aboard his ship HMS Doris on a mission to Chile; he died of a fever during the trip and she arrived in Valparaiso a widow. She lived in Chile for a year and experienced the catastropic 1822 earthquake, which she wrote about in Journal of a Residence in Chile during the Year 1822. In 1823, on a return trip to England, she made a stop in Brazil, where she was invited to serve as the tutor of the young Princess Maria da Gloria, the future queen Maria II of Portugal. After a few months with the Brazilian royal family, Mrs. Graham returned to England and was commissioned to write, with the help of papers and journals kept by R. Rowland Bloxam, the ship's chaplain, Voyage Of The H.M.S. Blonde To The Sandwich Islands, In The Years 1824-1825. In London, she moved in literary and artistic circles that included John Constable, J.M.W. Turner, Charles Eastlake, and her publisher John Murray. It was in this group that she met Augustus Wall Callcott, a noted painter, whom she married in 1827. After a honeymoon in Europe, she published A Short History of Spain (1828), and Description of the Chapel of the Annunziata dell’Arena; or Giotto’s Chapel in Padua (1835). Her most famous book for children, Little Arthur’s History of England, also appeared in 1835. Her second husband was knighted in 1837 and Maria became Lady Callcott. Her health began to deteriorate, and she died at age 57.