Mary Ward

Diana Powell

in Victorian Literature

ISBN: 9780199799558
Published online March 2011 | | DOI:
Mary Ward

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Mary Augusta (Mrs. Humphry) Ward (b. 1851–d. 1920) was a novelist, critic, education pioneer, antisuffrage campaigner, and war correspondent. Her second novel, Robert Elsmere (1888), was by some reckonings the highest-selling novel of the Victorian period, and its widespread piracy inadvertently led to the establishment of copyright laws in the United States. Born into the intellectual dynasty of Dr. Thomas and Matthew Arnold, Ward distinguished herself as a young woman at Oxford, before women were admitted to enroll as students, by becoming an expert on early Spanish literature through independent study in the Bodleian. At home among the literary and intellectual elite, Ward counted Oxford figures Mark Pattison, Walter Pater, T. H. Green, Benjamin Jowett, and Henry James as personal friends. Arthur Stanley, dean of Westminster, performed her wedding ceremony, and Lewis Carroll took her wedding pictures. Ward assumed the name of her husband, T. Humphry Ward, an Oxford tutor and journalist for the Times, in all of her works of fiction, but remained Mary A. Ward or M.A.W. in her articles and works of nonfiction. Although her career outshone her husband’s, the assumption of her husband’s name and her antisuffrage politics led to the diminishment of her critical reputation and the decline of her modern readership. Ward’s reputation as a polemical writer has also led to her work being interpreted as merely a vehicle for her religious, political, and social beliefs, and little has been produced on the purely aesthetic aspects of her work.

Article.  6548 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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