Ellen Glasgow

Catherine Rainwater

in American Literature

ISBN: 9780199827251
Published online August 2012 | | DOI:
Ellen Glasgow


Ellen Glasgow (b. 1873–d. 1945) was born in Richmond, Virginia. She enjoyed a career spanning nearly half a century as the author of poetry, short stories, novels, and nonfiction. The majority of her nineteen novels are set in Virginia, where she grew up as the ninth of ten children born to a severe, Calvinist father and a mild-mannered, Episcopalian mother who died when Ellen was twenty. A variety of emotional and intellectual conflicts traceable back to childhood trauma, especially the untimely loss of her mother, are reflected in her writing. At twenty Glasgow also began to suffer from hearing loss; from then on increasing deafness interfered with her social life. As a young child Glasgow refused to attend school owing to shyness, but she became impressively self-educated and was a voluminous reader. Her first novel, The Descendant (1897), examines political and philosophical issues that engaged her throughout her life. Although she wrote about the South, she objected vigorously to being labeled a regionalist. Repeatedly, she sought recognition as a modernist, and indeed her works explore epistemological questions concerning personal identity, history, and artistic expression from a markedly 20th-century perspective. Among writers she most admired were Joseph Conrad and Thomas Hardy. With Hardy she shared a great compassion for animals that is reflected in her fiction. For twenty years she served as president of the Richmond Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Her best-known novels are Virginia (1913), Barren Ground (1925), The Sheltered Life (1932), and Vein of Iron (1935). She also published a collection of poems, a volume of short stories, an autobiography (The Woman Within, 1954), a book of literary critical statements, and miscellaneous nonfiction pieces in newspapers and magazines. Glasgow traveled widely throughout her life, but she always returned to her family home at 1 West Main, where she did most of her writing. Her house—restored and maintained to appear as it did when she lived there—is open to visitors in Richmond. Founded in Richmond in 1974, the Ellen Glasgow Society has maintained steady membership that includes both academics and a lay readership.

Article.  7459 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (American)

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