Margaret Oliphant, Women and Money

  • Nancy Henry
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Literature, Culture and Economics book series (PSLCE)


This chapter shows that Oliphant was beset by financial problems and anxieties throughout her adult life, and that these troubles are reflected in the economic plots of her fiction. Oliphant grew up in Liverpool, and her first three novels were set there. Her short stories and better-known novels such as Hester (1883) and Kirsteen show the ways in which she complicates representations of women and money. Oliphant treats the subjects of slavery’s legacy, life insurance, and the struggles of women to achieve financial independence, evincing a distinctly ambivalent attitude toward new opportunities for women that situate her in the same context as her late nineteenth-century contemporaries Riddell and Gissing.


Margaret Oliphant Financial lives Economic plots Slavery Insurance Liverpool 


  1. Alborn, Timothy. 2009. Regulated lives: Life insurance and British Society, 1800–1914. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Armstrong, Tim. 2012. The logic of slavery: Debt, technology, and pain in American literature. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Austen, Jane. 1813. Pride and prejudice, ed. James Kinsley. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.Google Scholar
  4. Barker, Hannah. 2017. Family and business during the Industrial Revolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Barrie, J.M. 1898. Introductory note. In A Widow’s tale and other stories. The Margaret Oliphant Fiction Collection. Accessed 5 Apr 2018.
  6. Baucom, Ian. 2005. Specters of the Atlantic: Finance capital, slavery and the philosophy of history. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Beckert, Sven. 2014. Empire of cotton: A global history. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.Google Scholar
  8. Bourrier, Karen. 2011. Dinah Mulock Craik and Benjamin Mulock. Prose Studies 33 (3): 174–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brontë, Charlotte. 1847. Jane Eyre, ed. Margaret Smith. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.Google Scholar
  10. ———. 1853. Villette, ed. Margaret Smith and Herbert Rosengarten. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.Google Scholar
  11. Brontë, Emily. 1847. Wuthering heights, ed. Ian Jack. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.Google Scholar
  12. Carlyle, Thomas. 1849. “Occasional discourse on the Negro question.” Fraser’s Magazine. Project Gutenberg.
  13. Clarke, John Stock. 1981. Mrs. Oliphant’s unacknowledged social novels. Notes and Queries 28 (5): 408–413.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. ———. 1992. “Home,” a lost Victorian periodical. Victorian Periodicals Review 25 (2): 85–88.Google Scholar
  15. Corbett, Mary Jean. 2008. Family likeness: Sex, marriage, and incest. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  16. ———. 2013. Cousin marriage, then and now. Victorian Review 39 (2): 74–78. Google Scholar
  17. Crowley, Tony. 2012. Scouse: A social and cultural history. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. Google Scholar
  18. D’Albertis, Deirdre. 1997. The domestic drone: Margaret Oliphant and a political history of the novel. Studies in English Literature 1500–1900 37 (4): 805–829.Google Scholar
  19. Dickens, Charles. 1842–1844. The life and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit, ed. Margaret Cardwell. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.Google Scholar
  20. ———. 1846–1848. Dombey and son, ed. Alan Horsman. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984.Google Scholar
  21. ———. 1864–1865. Our mutual friend, ed. Kathleen Tillotson. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.Google Scholar
  22. Eagleton, Terry. 1995. Heathcliff and the great hunger: Studies in Irish culture. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  23. Eliot, George. 1860. The mill on the Floss, ed. Nancy Henry. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004.Google Scholar
  24. ———. 1871–1872. Middlemarch, ed. David Carroll. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.Google Scholar
  25. ———. 1876. Daniel Deronda, ed. K.M. Newton and Graham Handley. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.Google Scholar
  26. Gaskell, Elizabeth. 1848. Mary Barton: A tale of Manchester, ed. Edgar Wright. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.Google Scholar
  27. ———. 1853. Ruth, ed. Nancy Henry. London: Everyman, 2001.Google Scholar
  28. ———. 1854–1855. North and south, ed. Angus Easson. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.Google Scholar
  29. Gaskell, Elizabeth, John Chapple, and Alan Shelston. 2003. Further letters of Mrs. Gaskell. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Gates, Barbara. 2014. Victorian suicide: Mad crimes and sad histories. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Henry, Nancy. 2009. “Rushing into eternity”: Suicide and finance in Victorian fiction. In Victorian investments: New perspectives on finance and culture, ed. Nancy Henry and Cannon Schmitt, 161–181. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Hunt, Aeron. 2014. Personal business: Character and commerce in Victorian literature and culture. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press.Google Scholar
  33. James, Henry. 1880. Washington Square, ed. Andrian Poole. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.Google Scholar
  34. Jay, Elisabeth. 1995. Mrs. Oliphant, “a fiction to herself”: A literary life. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  35. Johnson, Patricia. 2010. Unlimited liability: Women and capital in Margaret Oliphant’s Hester. Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies 6 (1): 1–14.Google Scholar
  36. Levine, George. 2014. Reading Margaret Oliphant. Journal of Victorian Culture 19 (2): 232–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. McAleavey, Maia. 2015. The bigamy plot: Sensation and convention in the Victorian novel. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Michie, Elsie. 2011. The vulgar question of money: Heiresses, materialism, and the novel of manners from Jane Austen to Henry James. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  39. ———. 2013. History after Waterloo: Margaret Oliphant reads Walter Scott. ELH 80 (3): 897–916.Google Scholar
  40. Milne, Graeme J. 2006. Maritime Liverpool. In Liverpool 800: Culture, character, and history, ed. John Belchem, 257–310. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Oliphant, Margaret. 1851. John Drayton. London: Richard Bentley. The Margaret Oliphant Fiction Collection. Accessed 5 Apr 2018.
  42. ———. 1852. The Melvilles, 3 vols. London: Richard Bentley. The Margaret Oliphant Fiction Collection. Accessed 5 Apr 2018.
  43. ———. 1853. Harry Muir: A story of Scottish life, 3 vols. London: Hurst & Blackett. The Margaret Oliphant Fiction Collection. Accessed 5 Apr 2018.
  44. ———. 1855a. Christian Melville. London: David Bogue. The Margaret Oliphant Fiction Collection. Accessed 5 Apr 2018.
  45. ———. 1855b. Modern novelists great and small. Blackwood’s Magazine 77: 554–568.Google Scholar
  46. ———. 1868. The stockbroker at Dinglewood. Cornhill Magazine, September. The Margaret Oliphant Fiction Collection. Accessed 5 Apr 2018.
  47. ———. 1872. At his gates: A novel. New York: Scribner, Armstrong.Google Scholar
  48. ———. 1879. The greatest heiress in England, 3 vols. London: Hurst and Blackett, 1880.Google Scholar
  49. ———. 1881–1882. In trust: The story of a lady and her lover, 3 vols. London: Longmans, Green, 1882.Google Scholar
  50. ———. 1883. Hester, ed. Philip Davis and Brian Nellist. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.Google Scholar
  51. ———. 1886. Queen Eleanor and Fair Rosamond. In A Widow’s tale and other stories, 57–114. Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1898.Google Scholar
  52. ———. 1888. Mr. Sandford. In The ways of life. London: Smith Elder, 1897.Google Scholar
  53. ———. 1889. The mystery of Mrs. Blencarrow. London: Spencer Blackett. The Margaret Oliphant Fiction Collection. Accessed 5 Apr 2018.
  54. ———. 1890a. Janet. London: Hurst and Blackett.Google Scholar
  55. ———. 1890b. Kirsteen: The story of a Scotch family seventy years ago. London: Everyman, 1984.Google Scholar
  56. ———. 1890c. Sons and daughters. Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons. The Margaret Oliphant Fiction Collection. Accessed 5 Apr 2018.
  57. ———. 1892. The strange story of Mr. Robert Dalyell. In The ways of life. London: Smith Elder, 1897.Google Scholar
  58. ———. 1897. The ways of life: Two stories. London: Smith, Elder & Co. The Margaret Oliphant Fiction Collection.
  59. ———. 1898. Queen Eleanor and Fair Rosamond in a widow’s tale. Edinburgh: William Blackwood.Google Scholar
  60. ———. 1899. The autobiography of Margaret Oliphant: The complete text, ed. Elizabeth Jay. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.Google Scholar
  61. Pettitt, Clare. 1999. “Every man for himself, and God for us all!” Mrs. Oliphant, self-help, and industrial success literature in “John Drayton” and “The Melvilles”. Women’s Writing 6 (2): 163–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Poovey, Mary. 2008. Genres of the credit economy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Riddell, Charlotte. [R.V.M. Sparling, pseud.]. 1856. Zuriel’s grandchild: A novel. London: Newby, Thos. Cautley.Google Scholar
  64. ———. 1870. Austin Friars: A novel. London: Hutchinson.Google Scholar
  65. ———. 1874. Mortomley’s estate: A novel. London: Tinsley Brothers.Google Scholar
  66. ———. 1887a. Miss Gascoigne: A novel, vol. 1. London: Ward and Downey.Google Scholar
  67. ———. 1887b. The government official. London: R. Bentley.Google Scholar
  68. Schaffer, Talia. 2011. Novel craft: Victorian domestic handicraft and nineteenth-century fiction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Trela, D.J. 1995. Margaret Oliphant: Critical essays on a gentle subversive. Selinsgrove, PA: Susquehanna University Press.Google Scholar
  70. Trollope, Anthony. 1866–1887. The last chronicle of Barset, ed. Sophie Gilmartin. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 2002.Google Scholar
  71. ———. 1876. The prime minister, ed. Nicholas Shrimpton. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.Google Scholar
  72. Wagner, Tamara. 2010a. Financial speculation in Victorian fiction: Plotting money and the novel genre, 1815–1901. Columbus: Ohio State University Press.Google Scholar
  73. ———. 2010b. “Very saleable articles, indeed”: Margaret Oliphant’s repackaging of sensational finance. Modern Language Quarterly 71 (1): 51–74.Google Scholar
  74. Weiss, Barbara. 1986. The hell of the English: Bankruptcy and the Victorian novel. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press.Google Scholar
  75. Williams, Merryn. 1986. Margaret Oliphant: A critical biography. New York: St. Martin’s Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Wood, William. 1895. Autobiography of William Wood, 2 vols. New York: J.S. Babcock.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nancy Henry
    • 1
  1. 1.University of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA

Personalised recommendations