Mary Roberts (18 March 1788 – 13 January 1864) was an English author who wrote mostly on natural history. Born at Homerton, London she was the only daughter and third of four children of Daniel Roberts (1753–1811), an America merchant in the London firm of Roberts, Oxley, and Hancock, and his wife Ann, daughter of Jonah and Mary Thompson, founders of a Quaker school at Nether Compton in Dorset.[1] Her grandfather, the Reverend Thomas Lawson (1630–1691), is known as the father of Lakeland Biology.[2]

Mary was probably educated at home, but little is known of her early life.[3] In February 1790 the family moved to Painswick in Gloucestershire. There Mary developed an interest in natural history, leading to her best-known work, The Annals of my Village, Being a Calendar of Nature for Every Month in the Year (1831), based on life in the neighbouring village of Sheepscombe.[1]

Brought up as a Quaker, Mary left the society with her father in 1807. He had been disowned by the Society of Friends in 1784 for “disorderly conduct, giving way to intemperance and falling short of paying his just debts” and was not readmitted until 1789, and along with his daughter had become an adherent of the prophet Joanna Southcott (1750–1814).[1]

Mary’s last work, A Popular History of the Mollusca, was published in 1851, and almost nothing is known of her subsequent years. She died unmarried at her home in Brompton, London on 13 January 1864.[1]


Natural history

  • The Wonders of the Vegetable Kingdom displayed in a Series of Letters (1822)
  • Annals of my Village, Being a Calendar of Nature for Every Month in the Year (1831)
  • The conchologist’s companion (1834)
  • Sister Mary’s Tales in Natural History (1834)
  • The Seaside Companion, or Marine Natural History (1835)
  • Wild Animals, their Nature, Habits, and Instincts, with Incidental Notices of the Regions they Inhabit (5th edit. 1836)
  • Sketches of the animal and vegetable productions of America (1839)
  • Flowers of the matin and even song; or, Thoughts for those who rise early (1845)
  • Ruins and old trees associated with remarkable events in English history (1843)
  • Voices from the woodlands, descriptive of forest trees, ferns, mosses, and lichens (1850)
  • A popular history of the Mollusca; comprising a familiar account of their classification, instincts and habits, and of the growth and distinguishing characters of their shells with coloured plates engraved by W. Wing (1851)


  • Select Female Biography; comprising memoirs of eminent British ladies, derived from original and other authentic sources (1821)
  • Sequel to an Unfinished Manuscript of H. Kirke White’s, to illustrate the Contrast between the Christian’s and the Infidel’s Close of Life (1823)
  • Domesticated Animals considered with reference to Civilisation and the Arts (1833)
  • The Progress of Creation considered with reference to the Present Condition of the Earth (1845)