The Age of the Female Novelist: Single Women as Authors of Fiction

  • Sharon Connor
Part of the British Women’s Writing from Brontë to Bloomsbury, 1840-1940 book series (BWWFBB, volume 1)


This chapter explores the position of single Victorian women writers in the 1850s when the results of the 1851 Census stimulated vociferous debate about the role and ‘problem’ of ‘excess’ single women. Showing that the contemporary interpretation of Census statistics, which revealed a surplus of single women, was inaccurate, Connor discusses male critics’ views of women’s writing, particularly fiction by unmarried women. Margaret Oliphant declared the period the ‘age of women novelists,’ and fiction was a powerful platform for single women authors to contest often damning perceptions of unmarried women. However, the popularity of women’s writing and fiction’s role as moral guide led male reviewers in particular to warn against fiction by single women as detrimental both to readers and to women writers.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sharon Connor
    • 1
  1. 1.Liverpool UniversityLiverpoolUK

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