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Rundall, Mary Annlocked

(d. 1839)
  • Elizabeth Lee
  • , revised by Rosemary Mitchell

Rundall, Mary Ann (d. 1839), educational writer, was the head of a school for young girls in Bath known as Percy House Seminary. Her sister, Elizabeth, a teacher of dancing, married the actor Robert William Elliston and had a large family. In 1815 Miss Rundall published Symbolic Illustrations of the History of England. Dedicated to Princess Elizabeth, it was intended to help students remember important historical events by means of symbols based on the mnemonics of Gregor von Feinagle, who had visited Britain in 1811 and published The New Art of Memory with a London publisher in the following year. Symbolic Illustrations was favourably reviewed in the Gentleman's Magazine: 'the greater part of [the symbols] exhibit, each in a compact diagram, short narrations or histories; and thus, not only identify, but compress the objects of study' (GM, 1st ser., 85/2, 1815, 611). A critic for the Quarterly Review, however, was far less complimentary, and described Symbolic Illustrations as 'by far the most absurd book that has ever fallen into our hands' (QR, 418), highlighting the fact that 700 pages of letterpress were required to explain the thirty-nine plates of symbols. The complexity of the symbols certainly seems to justify the reviewer's criticism, and it is surprising to find a riposte in the Gentleman's Magazine: this contributor, who identifies himself as a teacher, praises the Symbolic Illustrations as 'a most happy auxiliary' to the teaching of history and lauds Miss Rundall's 'ingenuity and application' (GM, 1st ser., 87/1, 1817, 34).

Mary Ann Rundall's subsequent publications—An Easy Grammar of Sacred History (1810) and a Sequel to the Grammar of Sacred History (1824)—did not excite such controversy as Symbolic Illustrations had done. By the time of the publication of the Sequel Miss Rundall may have been living in London, possibly at Wanstead. She was still running a school: the Sequel contains an advertisement revealing that she received 'a few pupils' whom she instructed in 'every useful Science and elegant Accomplishment'. She died in Lower Bedford Place, London, on 2 October 1839.

Sources

  • [J. Watkins and F. Shoberl], A biographical dictionary of the living authors of Great Britain and Ireland (1816), 302
  • GM, 1st ser., 85/2 (1815), 611–2; 87/1 (1817), 33–4; 2nd ser., 12 (1839), 545

  • review, QR, 30 (1816), 418
Quarterly Review
Gentleman's Magazine