Charlotte Yonge

Susan Walton

in Victorian Literature

ISBN: 9780199799558
Published online April 2012 | | DOI:
Charlotte Yonge

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Even in an age of prolific writers, Charlotte M. Yonge (b. 1823–d. 1901) is notable for the range, quantity, and quality of her output. During her long career she was a successful novelist, editor, historian, biographer, journalist, reviewer, essayist, translator, and writer of textbooks. Although some of her books were written specifically for children, most were aimed at an adult market, particularly young adults. This breadth of accomplishment makes it hard to categorize Yonge’s achievements and has at times led literary historians to downgrade her significance. Her reputation as a close friend of John Keble and other members of the Oxford Movement bracketed her with a class of devout authors perceived to be marginal. Yet, her writing is not stridently didactic; governed by Tractarian reserve, her religious principles are implied rather than stated, and her stories were popular with a broad readership not exclusively High Church Anglican. Since the late 20th century new awareness of both the centrality of social reform for Anglo-Catholics and of the empowerment that religious activism can bestow on women has transformed notions about the nature of Yonge’s conservatism. Also, the full extent of her journalistic work is finally receiving the attention it deserves; research has highlighted how her remarkable forty-year editorship of The Monthly Packet (1851–1893) provided a role model and an opportunity for would-be women writers and demonstrated how her views on women’s education and work evolved over the 19th century. In her own time, Yonge was renowned for her novels, particularly the best-selling story that first brought her fame, The Heir of Redclyffe (1853). Greatly admired, this book epitomized her strengths as a writer: her ability to create characters who made goodness seem attractive and to place them within recognizable, contemporary families. Many came to think of her fictional creations, such as the May family in The Daisy Chain, as real-life friends and were delighted by their reappearances in subsequent stories, in which they might be linked to and intermarried with characters from households that feature in other novels.

Article.  13009 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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