NINETEENTH CENTURY WOMEN WRITERS
Part 1: Authors including Matilda Betham-Edwards, Florence Marryat, Helen Mathers, Charlotte Riddell, Dora Russell, Adeline Sergeant and Emma Jane Worboise
Biographical Notes on the Authors
Matilda Betham-Edwards, 1836-1919
A prominent member of the London literary world, with friends including luminaries such as George Eliot, Barbara Bodichon, Coventry Patmore and Sarah Grand, Miss Betham-Edwards wrote dozens of novels, children’s books and books on the politics, economics and geography of France. She was also a firm supporter of women’s movements of the period. Before her death she was honoured with a civil list pension by the British government and was the first Englishwoman to receive the title of Officier de l’Instruction Publique de France from the French government.
We include the 1864 edition of her first novel, The White House by the Sea. It was a great success, was translated into several languages and reprinted many times. We also include two of her great romantic best-sellers, Kitty, 1869 and Forestalled, or the Life-Quest, 1880.
Annie Edward(e)s, c1830-1896
Unfortunately there is very little biographical information existing about this author. We do know however that she was a popular and prolific writer and one of her novels was adapted into a play by W S Gilbert in 1874.
Florence Marryat, 1837-1899
Florence Marryat was the daughter of the famous author Captain Frederick Marryat. She wrote her first novel at the age of eleven and over the next fifty years wrote some 70 volumes, mostly sensation novels and works dealing with spiritualism. She knew most of the celebrated mediums of the day in Britain and America and claimed mediumistic gifts herself. She married at the age of sixteen and travelled over most of India with her husband Colonel T Ross Church.
Her first novels Love’s Conflict, Too Good for Him and Woman Against Woman, published in 1865 were supposedly written to distract her mind while nursing her children through scarlet fever. Many of her novels were translated into French, German, Russian, Flemish and Swedish. In addition to Love’s Conflict we include Véronique, 1869, one of her most popular sensational romances and At Heart a Rake, 1895 which tackled the serious question of female emancipation.
She was a frequent contributor to newspapers and magazines and edited London Society, a monthly publication from 1872 to 1876. Her other activities included writing plays, singing opera, acting in high-class comedy and giving dramatic readings.
Helen Mathers, 1853-1920
Also known as Mrs Reeves, Helen Mathers was one of the period’s most famous women. Born in Somerset she was educated mostly at home and in 1875 married Henry Reeves, a distinguished surgeon. Her first novel, Comin’ Thro’ the Rye, 1875 dealt with the destructive nature of male sexuality and proved to be her most popular. We include editions of two of her best received novels, Cherry Ripe and Bam Wildfire which were published in 1877 and 1897 respectively.
Charlotte Riddell, 1832-1906 (pseudonym – F G Trafford)
Charlotte Elizabeth Lawson Cowan was born in Carrickfergus near Belfast and after the death of her father, moved with her mother to London where Charlotte endeavoured to earn a living as a writer. After her mother’ death in 1857 she married Joseph Hadley Riddell, a civil engineer who worked in the City of London. Unfortunately his business ventures were relatively unsuccessful and Charlotte was forced into the role of breadwinner. She wrote more than 50 novels and stories and become one of the most popular and influential writers of the Victorian period. Subjects covered in her books included her native Ireland, the supernatural, London city life and the world of business. In 1868, at the height of her success, she became part owner and editor of St James’s Magazine. Her work was praised by G G Lewes and she was compared at various times to Charlotte Bronte and Elizabeth Gaskell.
We include her second novel The Moors and the Fens, 1858 which was sold to Smith Elder, the publishers of Charlotte Bronte. It is a study of the power and effects of
mean-spiritedness. It appeared under her pseudonym, F G Trafford, the name she used until 1864. Also included in this collection is the first book she sold to Edward and William Tinsley, George Geith of Fen Court published in 1864. It was a novel set against the high finance circles of the City and it became one of the most successful novels of the time. We also include A Struggle for Fame, 1883 which is thought to be autobiographical, being an account of a young girl’s determination to be a writer.
Dora Russell, 1874-1907
Biographical details are very scarce but it is know that she wrote extensively for the newspaper fiction market and was for a time employed by Tillotson’s Fiction Syndication Bureau.
Adeline Sergeant, 1851-1904
Born in Derbyshire into a non-conformist background she became Anglican, agnostic and finally Roman Catholic. On the death of her parents she worked as a governess in Kent. We include the 1887 edition of her first novel, Jacobi’s Wife published in 1882. This novel won her a £100 prize offered by the People’s Friend to which she contributed for over 20 years. A sensation novel, it tells the story of a man, who after a shipwreck, swims ashore alone, despite his wife’s entreaties to take the baby with him: years later, she has her revenge. This theme of strong woman/underhand man is repeated in many of her novels including Mrs Lygon’s Husband, 1905 which is included in this collection. We also include her most famous novel, the religious Story of a Penitent Soul, 1892.
She was a contributor to Women Novelists of Queen Victoria’s Reign, 1897 and in total wrote more than 90 novels. She was also a strong follower of women’s movements, did rescue work in London and was involved in adult education.
Annie Hall Thomas (later Mrs Pender Cudlip), 1838-1918
Annie Thomas was born in Suffolk, the daughter of a coastguard. In 1865 her father died and she was forced to start earning by writing articles and novels. She went from strength to strength after the publication of her first novel and wrote in total more than 60 popular novels, three of which are included in this collection. Many of her short stories appeared in Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly and other American magazines between 1876 and 1884.
Lucy (Bethia) Walford, 1845-1915
Lucy Colquhoun was born near Edinburgh, the daughter of John Colquhoun the author. By the age of seven she was already an avid reader and later admitted that Jane Austen’s work influenced her considerably. After her marriage she wrote secretly, contributing stories to Blackwood’s Magazine and working on her first book which is included in this collection, Mr Smith: A Part of his Life. It was published in 1874 and was a great success. It is the story of a flirt and treats social and romantic crises in a light-hearted way. We also include the 1894 edition of The Matchmaker which is notable as the last three-decker accepted by Mudie’s Circulating Library. Walford went on to write forty five books, many of them light-hearted domestic comedies. She also served as London correspondent for the New York Critic.
John Strange Winter (Mrs Arthur Stannard), 1856-1911
John Strange Winter was the pen-name of Henrietta Eliza Vaughan Stannard who was born in York, the daughter of Rev H V Palmer, the Rector of St Margaret’s. In 1884 she married Arthur Stannard, a civil engineer. Her earliest work was published under ‘Violet Whyte’ in the Family Herald. In 1881 she began writing the regimental tales for which she was best known, including Cavalry Life, 1881 included in this collection. This early writing was based on sentimental representations of male comradeship and women described as ‘dearest little women’. Bootle’s Baby, 1885 included in this collection, established her reputation, with two million copies being sold in the first ten years. In all she published around 100 novels and ten books of stories as well as articles for The Cornhill and Temple Bar. Between 1891 and 1895 she published her own weekly magazine and wrote Confessions of a Publisher, 1892 included in this collection, a novel which mocks patronizing male publishers. She was the first president of the Society of Women Journalists and a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Emma Jane Worboise, 1825-1887
A prolific novelist, she was born in Birmingham and began writing at an early age. Her first novel was published in 1846 when she was only twenty-one. She went on to publish over fifty volumes of evangelical stories and novels as well as contributing to magazines.
Eglanton Thorne (Elizabeth Emily Charlton)
No biographical details could be found for this author.
Ann Manning, 1807-1879
She was born in London and educated by her family. Her first major publication was The Maiden and Married Life of Mary Powell, Afterwards Mistress Milton, 1849, included in this collection and which purports to be the diary of Milton’s first wife through courtship and marriage. The novel looks at the cosy image of marriage and its reality of boredom and lack of freedom. Most of her novels explore feminist topics such as the limits placed on women by marriage. Manning wrote over fifty works, mostly biographies and historical novels.