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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor





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Elizabeth Ferguson

FERGUSON, Elizabeth, poet, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1739; died near Graeme Park, in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, 23 February 1801. Her grandfather was Sir William Keith, colonial governor of Pennsylvania, and her father was Dr. Thomas Graeme, a Scotchman, and collector of customs at Philadelphia. At the age of sixteen Mrs. Ferguson's wit and beauty made her a favorite. To divert her mind from a personal disappointment, she became a writer of poems and a translator of French verse, but the close application attendant upon this impaired her health, and she traveled abroad, as the protégée of her aged friend, Rev. Dr. Richard Peters. Her daily record of travels was written in a happy vein, anal contained a vivacious series of contrasts between English and colonial society which, though urgently solicited for publication, she declined to have printed. Soon after her return home she married a Scotchman, Hugh Henry Ferguson, after which she lived at Graeme Park until the beginning of the Revolution in 1775, when her husband took the side of the crown, she remaining true to her country, and a separation followed. Her husband's American estate was confiscated, but a small part of it was restored to her by the legislature in 1781.

After the British entered Philadelphia, Mrs. Ferguson was the bearer of an offensive letter from the Rev. Mr. Duche to General Washington. The general sent the letter to congress, and hinted to Mrs. Ferguson that he "highly disapproved the correspondence, and expected it would be discontinued." But she soon proposed to Governor Johnstone to offer Joseph Reed "ten thousand guineas and the best post in the government " to exert his influence with General Washington, and in other ways "to settle the contest," which brought out the memorable reply of Reed, afterward published by Mrs. Ferguson in a narrative for her own defense.

Her life after the Revolution was passed in pursuits of literature and in offices of benevolence. Several of her letters were printed in the "PortFolio." Her poetical correspondence with the Rev. Nathaniel Evans, under the pen name of "Laura," was also published. She transcribed the entire Bible, to impress its contents more deeply on her memory. But her most important work was a translation of F6nelon's "Telemaque" into English heroic verse, which occupied her for three years. Her heirs in the Philadelphia Franklin library deposited the manuscript. More than twenty years after its completion she rewrote four volumes.

Her nephew, John Young, who translated D'Argent's " Ancient Geography," died a neutenant in the British army. The copy of his work in the Philadelphia library contains a memoir by Mrs. Ferguson.

Edited Appletons Encyclopedia, Copyright © 2001 VirtualologyTM

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