Williams was born in 1706 at Rosemarket, Pembrokeshire.
Her family provided her with a wide education in arts, literature, science,
Italian and French and her father, Zachariah Williams, was a scientist and
In 1726-7 the family moved to London, and
Anna became a close companion of fellow writer Samuel Johnson. Despite failing
eyesight, Anna published a translation of a French life of the emperor Julian in 1746 while also caring for her ailing
father. Other works included Miscellanies
in Prose and Verse, published in 1766, which was successful and earned the
author about £150. Anna also wrote an incomplete
dictionary of philosophical terms and individual verses such as ‘On the Death of Sir
Unfortunately Drowned in the River Avon’. Her style was influenced by
In 1748, Dr Johnson helped Anna in caring
for her father, as well as sourcing a surgeon to operate on her cataracts. She
later lived with Johnson and managed his household and expenses as well as
accompanying him when entertaining or visiting.
As Anna grew older she was described as ‘peevish’ and became intolerant of other
members of the household. However, she and Johnson remained constant
companions. After her death he wrote: ‘Her
curiosity was universal, her knowledge was very extensive, and she sustained
forty years of misery with steady fortitude. Thirty years and more she has been
my companion, and her death has left me very desolate’. She left £200 in
stocks at her death, and £157.14s. to the Ladies’ Charity School, Snow Hill,
London in support of ‘poor and fatherless children’.