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Impossibility

Robert Crawford

18 September 1997
... Under the North Sea, a mile off Elie Where once she was noticed in a mullioned window, White lace cap rising, brooding over her table, MargaretOliphant Wilson Oliphant Translates onto starfish and nacred shells Montalembert’s Monks of the West Still weary, awash with hackwork to support Dead Maggie, Marjorie, Tiddy and Cecco, Her water babies, breathing ectoplasm ...

Doubling the Oliphant

Ruth Bernard Yeazell

7 September 1995
Mrs Oliphant‘A Fiction to Herself’ 
by Elisabeth Jay.
Oxford, 355 pp., £25, February 1995, 0 19 812875 4
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... Even by the standards of her contemporaries MargaretOliphant’s productivity was phenomenal. As the author of 98 novels, she surpassed that other prodigious maker of fictions, Anthony Trollope, by roughly two to one – and this is not to mention her 25 works ...

Criminal Elastic

Susannah Clapp

5 February 1987
Margaret OliphantA Critical Biography 
by Merryn Williams.
Macmillan, 217 pp., £27.50, October 1986, 0 333 37647 1
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Chronicles of Carlingford: The Perpetual Curate 
by Mrs Oliphant.
Virago, 540 pp., £4.50, February 1987, 0 86068 786 4
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Chronicles of Carlingford: Salem Chapel 
by Mrs Oliphant.
Virago, 461 pp., £3.95, August 1986, 0 86068 723 6
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Chronicles of Carlingford: The Rector 
by Mrs Oliphant.
Virago, 192 pp., £3.50, August 1986, 0 86068 728 7
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... I too work hard, Mrs Oliphant,’ said Queen Victoria to the Scottish novelist. Mrs Oliphant was famous for her productivity. She published biographies of Edward Irving and the Comte de Montalembert, a literary history of England and more than sixty fat novels.* From the mid-1850s until her ...
8 May 1997
Eve’s Renegades: Victorian Anti-Feminist Women Novelists 
by Valerie Sanders.
Macmillan, 249 pp., £42.50, September 1996, 0 333 59563 7
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... the ‘woman question’ involved, and the difficulty of categorising the changing positions of the women whose writing she analyses. The four novelists singled out here – Charlotte M. Yonge, MargaretOliphant, Eliza Lynn Linton and Mary Augusta Ward (or Mrs Humphry Ward, as she characteristically called herself) – were all exceptionally productive, respected and widely read. Yonge’s The Heir ...

Nelly gets her due

John Sutherland

8 November 1990
The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens 
by Claire Tomalin.
Viking, 317 pp., £16.99, October 1990, 0 670 82787 8
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The Autobiography of Margaret​ Oliphant 
edited by Elisabeth Jay.
Oxford, 184 pp., £16.95, October 1990, 0 19 818615 0
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... Estella, the shallow, vindictive tormentor of men that Edmund Wilson popularised. She was the object of a domineering lover and lived in a moralistic age, but refused to be destroyed by either. Mrs Oliphant was also a survivor but in a more literal and wretched sense than Nelly Ternan. Oliphant outlived everyone who mattered to her. After 69 years of life and 125 books, her last autobiographical words ...

Fear among the Teacups

Dinah Birch: Ellen Wood

8 February 2001
East Lynne 
by Ellen Wood, edited by Andrew Maunder.
Broadview, 779 pp., £7.95, October 2000, 1 55111 234 5
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... of the all-conquering drive of the middle classes, and the family’s business interests failed. He did not live long. Like many of the most vigorous and productive women novelists of the period (MargaretOliphant, Frances Trollope, Mary Ward, Julia Kavanagh), Ellen Wood wrote to support her family. The preoccupation with the precariousness of health and fortune that haunts her fiction was the product ...

Mohocks

Liam McIlvanney: The House of Blackwood

5 June 2003
The House of Blackwood: Author-Publisher Relations in the Victorian Era 
by David Finkelstein.
Pennsylvania State, 199 pp., £44.95, April 2002, 0 271 02179 9
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... tale of the hanging judge would have sat comfortably in a tradition of Scottish eccentricity that includes James Hogg’s The Shepherd’s Calendar, John Galt’s ‘theoretical histories’ and MargaretOliphant’s tales of terror. It’s common to think of Blackwood’s as a stolid redoubt of middlebrow English respectability, the kind of torpid organ invoked by Orwell in ‘England Your England ...

Besieged by Female Writers

John Pemble: Trollope’s Late Style

3 November 2016
Anthony Trollope’s Late Style: Victorian Liberalism and Literary Form 
by Frederik Van Dam.
Edinburgh, 180 pp., £70, January 2016, 978 0 7486 9955 1
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... it, being taken over by women. There were now probably more women than men writing novels, and there was no doubt that more women than men were reading them. For most of the 1860s, Mrs Henry Wood and MargaretOliphant outsold not only Trollope, but Dickens and Thackeray too. In the 1870s, it was George Eliot who reigned, and when Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd appeared in 1874 the Spectator declared ...
21 August 1997
God’s Gift to Women 
by Don Paterson.
Faber, 64 pp., £6.99, May 1997, 9780571177622
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... it in smoky pubs. Hard to imagine the sly and brilliant Norman MacCaig whingeing on about his masculinity. Now, however, earlier feminist explorations are being rediscovered in the late stories of MargaretOliphant and the novels of Willa Muir and Catherine Carswell. Young women writers are finding that they have a Scottish tradition behind them as well as imaginative and ideological links to work from ...

Adulation or Eggs

Susan Eilenberg: At home with the Carlyles

7 October 2004
Thomas and Jane Carlyle: Portrait of a Marriage 
by Rosemary Ashton.
Pimlico, 560 pp., £15, February 2003, 0 7126 6634 6
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... Thackeray, Dickens, Tennyson, the Brownings, George Lewes (though Jane refused to have Mary Ann Evans in the house), Lady Harriet Baring and William Bingham Baring, Charles and Erasmus Darwin, Margaret Fuller, Ruskin, Ellen Twisleton, MargaretOliphant, Froude: practically everybody, or at least practically everybody who either liked to talk or could bear, as Carlyle grew into stentorian middle age ...

If It Weren’t for Charlotte

Alice Spawls: The Brontës

16 November 2017
... Charlotte Brontë: A Passionate Life in 1994 and Juliet Barker’s The Brontës from the same year (biographies seem to come in generational bursts). All writers on the Brontës now benefit from Margaret Smith’s magisterial – much overdue – edition of Charlotte’s extant letters, published by Oxford in three volumes between 1995 and 2004. Barker and Gordon have both made contributions to this ...

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