Mary Elizabeth Coleridge was born in London in 1861, the elder daughter of Arthur Duke Coleridge, Clerk to the Assizes on the Midland Circuit. Her great-great uncle was the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Mary grew up in a literary and artistic environment: her father was one of the founders of the Bach Choir in 1875 and through her parents’ connections she mixed with some of the most eminent writers of the age. She was educated at home, partly by the poet and ex-Eton schoolmaster, William Johnson Cory. As a child she read widely and wrote her first poem at the age of 13.
In her twenties she travelled frequently to the Continent, becoming fluent in French, German, and Italian. Back in England, she taught working women English language and literature, initially at her home and from 1895 to 1907 at the London Working Women’s College, writing in her free time. Her first book of poems, Fancy’s Following, was published in 1896 under a pseudonym.
During her lifetime she was better known for her short stories, essays and novels, the first of which, The Seven Sisters of Ephesus, was published in 1893. She went on to write four more novels, the best known of which is The King With Two Faces, a historical romance. Mary Coleridge died while on holiday in Harrogate in 1907, aged 45, having never married. She left a large number of unpublished poems and after her death her close friend Henry Newbolt published over 200 of her poems, which were very well received. Some of these were later set to music.