Sunday, October 09, 2011

A Guest Post by Anna: A Literary Canon of Women Writers, Part Eleven: Into The Nineteenth Century

Echidne's note: Earlier parts of this series can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 ,Part 5, Part 6, Part 7,Part 8, Part 9, and Part 10)

Jane Austen (16 December 1775 - 18 July 1817) was an English novelist whose works of romantic fiction are critically acclaimed and very popular and influential.

Austen's works critique the novels of sensibility of the second half of the 18th century and are part of the transition to 19th-century realism. Her plots, though fundamentally comic, highlight the dependence of women on marriage to secure social standing and economic security, and are often considered feminist.

Her work brought her little personal fame and only a few positive reviews during her lifetime, but the publication in 1869 of her nephew's A Memoir of Jane Austen introduced her to a wider public, and by the 1940s she had become widely accepted in academia as a great English writer.

Her novels include Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), Emma (1815) Northanger Abbey (1818, posthumous), and Persuasion (1818, posthumous). They are widely available in English.

Mary Russell Mitford (16 December 1787 – 10 January 1855), was an English author and dramatist. She was born at Alresford, Hampshire. She is most noted as the author of Our Village: Sketches of Rural Character and Scenery. This series of about 100 literary sketches of rural life was based upon life in Three Mile Cross, a hamlet in the parish of Shinfield, near Reading in Berkshire, where she lived. It was originally published during the 1820s and 1830s, and first appeared in The Lady's Magazine. It is widely available in English.

Sarah Margaret Fuller Ossoli, commonly known as Margaret Fuller, (May 23, 1810 – July 19, 1850) was an American journalist, critic, and women's rights advocate associated with the American transcendentalism movement. She was the first full-time American female book reviewer in journalism. Her book Woman in the Nineteenth Century is considered the first major feminist work in the United States.

Born Sarah Margaret Fuller in Cambridge, Massachusetts, she was given a substantial early education by her father, Timothy Fuller. She later had more formal schooling and became a teacher. In 1839, she began overseeing what she called "conversations": discussions among women meant to compensate for their lack of access to higher education. A number of significant figures in the women's rights movement attended these "conversations", including Sophia Dana Ripley, Caroline Sturgis, and Maria White Lowell.

Margaret Fuller became the first editor of the transcendentalist journal The Dial in 1840, before joining the staff of the New York Tribune under Horace Greeley in 1844. By the time she was in her 30s, Fuller had earned a reputation as the best-read person in New England, male or female, and became the first woman allowed to use the library at Harvard College.

Her seminal work, Woman in the Nineteenth Century, was published in 1845. A year later, she was sent to Europe for the Tribune as its first female correspondent. She soon became involved with the revolution in Italy and allied herself with Giuseppe Mazzini. She had a relationship with Giovanni Ossoli, with whom she had a child. All three members of the family died in a shipwreck off Fire Island, New York, as they were traveling to the United States in 1850. Fuller's body was never recovered.

Fuller was an advocate of women's rights and, in particular, women's education and the right to employment. She also encouraged many other reforms in society, including prison reform and the emancipation of slaves in the United States. Many other advocates for women's rights and feminism, including Susan B. Anthony, cite Fuller as a source of inspiration. Many of her contemporaries, however, were not supportive, including her former friend Harriet Martineau. She said that Fuller was a talker rather than an activist.

Shortly after Fuller's death, her importance faded; the editors who prepared her letters to be published, believing her fame would be short-lived, were not concerned about accuracy and censored or altered much of her work before publication. “Woman in the Nineteenth Century” is widely available in English, as are her letters.

Jacobine Camilla Collett (née Wergeland) (23 January 1813 – 6 March 1895) was a Norwegian writer, often referred to as the first Norwegian feminist. She was also the younger sister of Norwegian poet Henrik Wergeland, and is recognized as being one of the first contributors to realism in Norwegian literature.

Her most famous work is her only novel, Amtmandens Døtre (The District Governor's Daughters) which was published anonymously in two separate parts in 1854 and 1855. The book is considered one of the first political novels in Norway and deals with the difficulties of being a woman in a patriarchical society in general and forced marriages specifically. It was the first book to address directly social problems in Norway (in particular marriage and the treatment of women) and was a major force in the creation of the Norwegian feminist movement.

She also wrote a number of essays and polemics, as well as her memoirs. Her literary models included female writers such as Rahel Varnhagen and George Sand, as well as Edward Bulwer Lytton and Theodor Mundt. Her complete works are available online in Norwegian here: The District Governor's Daughters is available in English as “The District Governor's Daughters (Norvik Press Series B),” translated by Kirsten Seaver.

Charlotte Brontë (21 April 1816 – 31 March 1855) was an English novelist and poet, best known for the novel Jane Eyre which she wrote under the pen name Currer Bell.

In May 1846, Charlotte and her sisters Emily and Anne published a joint collection of poetry under the assumed names of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. Although only two copies were sold, the sisters continued writing for publication and began their first novels. Charlotte used "Currer Bell" when she published her first two novels.

Of this, Brontë later wrote:"... we did not like to declare ourselves women, because —without at that time suspecting that our mode of writing and thinking was not what is called 'feminine' – we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice; we had noticed how critics sometimes use for their chastisement the weapon of personality, and for their reward, a flattery, which is not true praise."

Jane Eyre is a literary classic which is sometimes regarded as an important early feminist (or proto-feminist) novel due to the title character's personality. It is widely available in English.

Emily Jane Brontë (30 July 1818 – 19 December 1848) was an English novelist and poet, best known for her novel Wuthering Heights. She published under the pen name Ellis Bell. Although Wuthering Heights received mixed reviews when it first came out, and was often condemned for the vicious actions of some of the characters, it is now considered an English literary classic. In 1850, Charlotte edited and published Wuthering Heights as a stand-alone novel and under Emily's real name. It is widely available in English.

Anne Brontë (17 January 1820 – 28 May 1849) was a British novelist and poet. She wrote two novels, Agnes Grey (based on her own experiences as a governess) and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was an instant phenomenal success, sold out within six weeks.

Its depiction of alcoholism and debauchery were profoundly disturbing to nineteenth century readers. It is also a noted feminist novel. Anne's heroine eventually leaves her husband to protect their young son from his influence, as he is a cruel alcoholic. She supports herself and her son by painting, while living in hiding, fearful of discovery. In doing so, she violates not only social conventions, but also English law. At the time, a married woman had no independent legal existence, apart from her husband and could not own her own property, sue for divorce, or control custody of her children. If she attempted to live apart from him, her husband had the right to reclaim her. If she took their child with her, she was liable for kidnapping. In living off her own earnings, she was held to be stealing her husband's property, since any income she made was legally his.

As for Agnes Grey, George Moore praised it as "the most perfect prose narrative in English letters," and went so far as to compare Anne's prose to that of Jane Austen.

Both novels are widely available in English.

Rosa Campbell Praed (27 March 1851 – 10 April 1935), often credited as Mrs Campbell Praed (and also known as Rosa Caroline Praed), was an Australian novelist in the 19th and early 20th centuries. She has been described as the first Australian novelist to achieve a significant international reputation.

In 1880 she published her first book, An Australian Heroine, which had been twice returned to her for revision by Chapman and Hall's reader, George Meredith. It was well-reviewed and established her as an author. This book was followed by Policy and Passion (1881), one of the best of her earlier books, which went into at least three editions. An Australian reprint was issued in 1887 under the title of Longleat of Kooralbyn. Nadine; the Study of a Woman, was published in 1882, Moloch; a Story of Sacrifice, in 1883, and Zero; a story of Monte Carlo, in 1884.

As her fame grew, the Praeds moved from Northamptonshire to London. Celebrities such as the writers Oscar Wilde, Rudyard Kipling and Bram Stoker visited them. In 1884 she began her friendship with Irish politician, historian and writer, Justin McCarthy, a friendship which continued for the rest of his life. He was 20 years her senior, with an established reputation as a literary man. They collaborated on three political novels, The Right Honourable (1886), The Rebel Rose (issued anonymously in 1888, but two later editions appeared in their joint names under the title The Rival Princess ), and The Ladies' Gallery (1888). Another joint work was The Grey River (1889), a large-format book on the Thames, illustrated with etchings by Mortimer Menpes. Clarke describes it as "an early example of the 'coffee-table' genre".

In 1894-95, she returned to Australia, visiting Japan on her return to England. As a result of this visit, she wrote Madame Izàn: A Tourist Story (1899) in which she "raised the then daring subject of an interracial marriage between a Japanese man and an Irish woman".

In 1899, she began collaborating with medium Nancy Harward, with whom she lived for thirty years. During this time she wrote her novels about the occult and reincarnation, starting with Nyria (1904).

Praed's husband died in 1901, and in 1902 she published My Australian Girlhood, an account of her life in the country before her marriage. Towards the end of 1912 Praed published Our Book of Memories: Letters of Justin McCarthy to Mrs Campbell Praed, with connecting explanations. Her last years were spent at Torquay. In 1931 she published The Soul of Nyria, which purports to be an account of life in Rome over 1800 years ago as set down by a modern woman in a medium’s trance. This record was written down by her between 1899 and 1903, but was not published until nearly 30 years later. Her novel, Nyria, was based on these experiences. She died at Torquay on 10 April 1935 and was survived by her daughter who later died in a mental asylum.

Her books are widely available in English.