Mrs W. K. Clifford

(1849—1929) writer

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(1849–1929) married (1875) William Kingdon Clifford (1845–79). Lucy Clifford was born in London and brought up in Barbados, the daughter of a colonial administrator, and was left a penniless widow with two small children. Her husband was a distinguished mathematician and philosopher who had many influential friends. They (including ‘George Eliot’, 1819–80) helped her get a Civil List pension of £80 annually and a Royal Literary Fund grant of £200. Having already published an untraced anonymous novel, she took to literature. Her Anyhow Stories (1882) for children have been praised by Alison Lurie in Don't Tell the Grown-Ups (1990); her first known novel, Mrs Keith's Crime (1885), about infanticide, had reached four editions by 1888. Aunt Anne (1892) is the story of an unsuccessful marriage beween a middle-aged woman and a young man. A Woman Alone: Three Stories (1901) comprises three linked stories about loneliness. The first woman adores a difficult husband who lives apart from her; the third loves but cannot marry because she murdered her first husband. Woodside Farm (1902) has a worldly villainess whose attempts to prevent the heroine's marriage are drastic and unsuccessful. The idyllic rural setting of the heroine's childhood is contrasted with London's nasty sophistication. In the short stories of The Modern Way (Eight Examples) (1906) the theme is again marriage and the individual in modern society. Clifford was a friend of both Henry James and Elizabeth Robins. She was a prominent figure in literary circles for many years, but by 1920 appeared ridiculous to Virginia Woolf (1882–1941), who described her vitriolically: ‘black velvet, morbid, intense, jolly, vulgar—a hack to her tips … If I could reproduce her talk of money, royalties, editions, and reviews, I should think myself a novelist …’ Clifford's daughter Ethel, later Lady Dilke (d. 1959), published verse.

From The Oxford Companion to Edwardian Fiction in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.

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