Advertisement

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

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

Abstract

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.

Works Cited

  1. Altick, Richard D. ‘The Sociology of Authorship: The Social Origins, Education and Occupation of 1100 British Writers, 1800–1935.’ Bulletin of the New York Public Library 66 (1962): 389–404.Google Scholar
  2. Anon, ‘Civilisation – The Census.’ Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine 77(473) (March 1855): 339.Google Scholar
  3. Anon, ‘Hearts in Mortmain and Cornelia.’ Prospective Review 24 (October 1850): 495.Google Scholar
  4. Census of Great Britain. HMSO: 1851. Vol. 2. London: Clowes & Son, 1854.Google Scholar
  5. Eliot, George. ‘Madame de Sablé.’ 1854. In Selected Critical Writings. Ed. Rosemary Ashton. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992. 37–68.Google Scholar
  6. ———. ‘Silly Novels by Lady Novelists.’ 1856. In Selected Critical Writings. Ed. Rosemary Ashton. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992. 296–321.Google Scholar
  7. Greenwell, Dora. ‘Our Single Women.’ North British Review 36 (1862): 63–68.Google Scholar
  8. [Greg, W. R.] ‘False Morality of Lady Novelists.’ National Review 15 (Jan 1859): 144–67.Google Scholar
  9. ———. ‘Why are Women Redundant?’ National Review 14(28) (1862) 434–60.Google Scholar
  10. Hutton, R. H. ‘Novels by the Authoress of John Halifax.’ North British Review 29 (1858): 467–81.Google Scholar
  11. [Lewes, G. H.] ‘The Lady Novelists.’ Westminster Review 2 (1852): 129–41.Google Scholar
  12. [Ludlow, J. M.]. ‘Ruth. A Novel.’ North British Review 19 (1853) 151–74.Google Scholar
  13. [Oliphant, Margaret]. ‘Modern Novelists – Great and Small.’ Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine 77 (May 1855): 554–68.Google Scholar
  14. [Sala, George Augustus]. ‘Numbers of People.’ Household Words 10 (21 October 1854): 221–28.Google Scholar
  15. Showalter, Elaine. A Literature of Their Own: From Charlotte Brontë to Doris Lessing. London: Virago, 1999.Google Scholar
  16. Worsnop, Judith. ‘A Reevaluation of “The Problem of Surplus Women” in 19th Century England.’ Women’s Studies International Forum 13(1–2) (1990): 21–31.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sharon Connor
    • 1
  1. 1.Liverpool UniversityLiverpoolUK

Personalised recommendations