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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 death in 1897 she contributed half a dozen essays a year to Blackwood’s Magazine, delivering on Bunsen, Savonarola, Queen Anne, Marco Polo and Jesus Christ ...

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 Margaret Oliphant’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 of non-fiction, 50 short stories and over three hundred contributions to periodicals ...

On the Shelf

Tom Crewe: Mrs Oliphant, 16 July 2020

... human family’ or simply as ‘They’, or ‘Them’. The writer who does do that is Margaret Oliphant, whom Miller doesn’t mention, and whose novel Miss Marjoribanks (1866) is surely the most interesting and entertaining example of a woman writing about men in the 19th century.The novel tells the story of Miss Marjoribanks, and of her return, after ...


Robert Crawford, 18 September 1997

... she was noticed in a mullioned window, White lace cap rising, brooding over her table, Margaret Oliphant 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 ...

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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... 22 years – was on the rocks. It seems that a bracelet intended for Nelly was misdirected to Mrs Dickens, precipitating a row. In 1858, Dickens separated from Catherine, treating her with what looks like great cruelty. It was widely suspected that another woman was involved. Some assumed it was Dickens’s sister-in-law, Georgina Hogarth. This lady ...

Her Proper Duties

Tessa Hadley: Helen Simpson, 5 January 2006

by Helen Simpson.
Cape, 144 pp., £14.99, December 2005, 0 224 07794 5
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... requires, independent of their relations to their children. There were of course mother-writers: Mrs Oliphant, for example, her husband first feckless and then dead, wrote for her children, earning by her midnight labours enough to send her sons to Eton, the novels justified as maternal sacrifice. Perhaps there’s a deep antagonism, anyway, between ...

Look here, Mr Goodwood

John Bayley, 19 September 1996

Is Heathcliff a Murderer? Puzzles in 19th-Century Fiction 
by John Sutherland.
Oxford, 262 pp., £3.99, June 1996, 9780192825162
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... double ending, implicit in the psychological and dramatic circumstance of the narrative itself. Mrs Gaskell was fairly hamfisted about it: ‘the idea of M. Paul Emanuel’s death at sea was stamped on her imagination, till it assumed the distinct force of reality; and she could no more alter her fictitious ending than if they had been facts which she was ...

A Year upon the Sofa

Dinah Birch, 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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... whose writing she analyses. The four novelists singled out here – Charlotte M. Yonge, Margaret Oliphant, 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 of Redclyffe (1853) was a ...

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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... exhortation in such generous quantities. For all its sensationalism, the writing of Ellen Wood (or Mrs Henry Wood, as she preferred to call herself) is unremittingly moral in tone. The characters are constantly held up to judgment, human and divine. Isabel’s repentant demise is followed by a final chapter of explicit moral directive – ‘never forget that ...

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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... a sketch of Haworth Parsonage under snow … a respectful allusion to George Eliot; a reference to Mrs Gaskell and one would have done.’ Women novelists had come late to English literature, and had no more than a toehold in what was still a male domain. They were second-class citizens – just like their granddaughters and great granddaughters in the ...

If It Weren’t for Charlotte

Alice Spawls: The Brontës, 16 November 2017

... followed the Brontë family story in the Life and laid the blame for initiating the affair with Mrs Robinson. Branwell bragged about it (‘my mistress is DAMNABLY TOO FOND OF ME’) but this is hard to interpret: the letters of his that we have are mostly in a style more extravagant than Charlotte’s and less modulated. The final months of Branwell’s ...

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