Writers with Entries: January 2012 Update

In January 2012, Orlando released 10 entries (9 British women writers, 1 male writer); 39 new free-standing chronology entries; 418 new bibliographical listings; 29,227 new tags; 7,861,990 total words (exclusive of tags). New author entries include:

  • Lady Lucy Herbert, 1668 or 1669 – 1744, Roman Catholic prioress and devotional writer, sister of Lady Nithsdale following.
  • Winifred Maxwell, Countess of Nithsdale, 1672-1749, letter-writer, remembered for her account of her daring rescue of her condemned Jacobite husband from the Tower of London, sister of Lady Lucy Herbert above.
  • Ellis Cornelia Knight, 1757-1837, novelist, poet, diarist and autobiographer, remembered for her sequel to Samuel Johnson‘s Rasselas and her equally unusual historical novel set during the Roman Empire.
  • Selina Davenport, 1779-1859, novelist who wrote (after ending an unhappy marriage) to secure a bare subsistence for herself and her daughters. Her novels have great energy and preposterous plots. Her ex-husband tried to prevent the Royal Literary Fund from helping her.
  • Isabella Neil Harwood, 1837-88, novelist and playwright whose life is obscure. Her sensation novels (dealing in inheritance, mistaken identity and so on) and her plays (many of them in verse and based on pre-existing literary or historical material, written more for the library than the theatre) were both highly praised in their day.
  • Charlotte O’Conor Eccles, 1863-1911, Irish journalist, social reformer, fiction-writer, remembered for her outspoken account of the obstacles faced by a woman attempting to gain a foothold as a London journalist.
  • Naomi Jacob, 1884-1964, popular dramatist, novelist, and memoirist, lesbian and cross-dresser. Her life, an odd mixture of the flamboyant and the hidden, is of more compelling interest than her writings, which are fluent, sentimental, lacking in depth – and still being reprinted. Her saga of a Jewish business family is the best known.
  • Evelyn Waugh, 1903-66, novelist and stylist whose mordant satire was daring in the 1920s and in his war novels, often reactionary and querulous in later life. His political values have made it easy to underestimate his art. His fictionalizing of his own bout of temporary dementia is both unusual and courageous.
  • Mary Stewart, born 1916, popular writer of romantic suspense novels whose English protagonists typically have to deal with crime and deception in foreign holiday spots. Natural description is important in these books. Her five historical Arthurian novels are darker and more violent.
  • Zadie Smith, born 1975, who attained international fame with her first novel,
    White Teeth, 2000. Her ambitious fictions, both long and short, are highly literary, yet steeped in the multiracial, multicultural, urban street culture of their times.

Entries Enhanced

As usual Orlando has added things previously missed, like the fact that Daphne Du Maurier‘s sister Angela was also a novelist, or that Sydney Owenson, Lady Morgan, was personally responsible for the creation of Albert Gate, Hyde Park, or that Emily Faithfull has appeared as a central character in a fairly recent novel by Emma Donoghue. Also new publications of many kinds, and new or newly voiced opinions, have supplied material for additional information or additional comment: for instance, the first volume of Romantic Women Writers Reviewed provides a list of the twenty-four most-reviewed women of 1789-90. Most of these minor adjustments do not need to be mentioned here, but just a few are singled out below.

  • Margaret Atwood (a regular in these updates). Not only a new book (In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination) but a new piece of science to go with the fiction: printing on paper derived from straw, as a gesture towards a future in which no forests need die to produce even non-digital books.
  • Jane Austen (another regular who this time has outdone herself). Firstly, the sale of (the larger part of) the manuscript of her unfinished The Watsons in July 2011 to the Bodleian Library for 993,250 GBP (a tenfold increase in market value since the same ms sold for 90,000 GBP in 1988). Secondly, the infamous disparagement of her by V. S. Naipaul (the month before The Watsons manuscript was sold) for sentimentality. (He also asserted the inferiority to himself of women writers in general.) Thirdly, the emergence at last of a perhaps authentic portrait, brought before the public by biographer Paula Byrne. Fouthly, see below under P. D. James.
  • Maria Callcott. A family archive (including first editions, portraits, a portfolio of sketches, and memorabilia) has been donated by the Graham family (descendants of her first husband) to Chawton House Library.
  • Sarah Butler. Here, sad to say, new scholarship leaves us with less information instead of more. The new edition of Butler’s Irish Tales, 1716, by Ian Campbell Ross, Aileen Douglas and Anne Markey, erases several details of her life and even casts doubt on her existence.
  • Richmal Crompton. When Alan Bennett fondly recalled the part played by the William books in his childhood reading he added himself to a roster of fans that includes John Lennon and Michael Palin.
  • Julia Frankau. New information courtesy of her great-great-grandson Reuben Frankau.
  • Radclyffe Hall. Orlando had hitherto missed the continued popularity of her sentimental song about a wounded ex-soldier, “The Blind Ploughman” (eight different versions currently available on YouTube).
  • Cicely Hamilton. Something else Orlando had missed was her jokey little 15-page illustrated verse pamphlet “Beware! A Warning to Suffragists”, 1909 (not in the British Library, Bodleian, or other UK research libraries). We were alerted to its appearance both as Object of the Month on the website of the Working Class Movement Library and (in a reprint of 1982) as an item for sale. The reprint was made from a copy “rescued from a rubbish bin in the Labour Party Library in the 1970s”- such is the fragility of women’s history.
  • P. D. James. Having reached ninety, she felt it was now or never for combining her love of crime fiction with her love of Jane Austen: the result is Death Comes to Pemberley.
  • Edith Mary Moore. More and better information about this obscure and undervalued author by the generosity of her great-granddaughter Sarah Elizabeth Moore.
  • E. Nesbit. Colin Burrow, writing about H. G. Wells‘s An Experiment in Autobiography and therefore on several writers who had affairs with Wells, observed that Nesbit’s novels are “easy to patronise but belong among the greats of Edwardian fiction.”
  • Anna Maria and Jane Porter. Updating of the entry on Jane Porter has followed from the addition of a new entry on her obscure friend Selina Davenport, while Marie Nedregotten Sørbø (as well as offering a Norwegian perspective on Anna Maria’s The Recluse of Norway) has suggested on the basis of character names that one of the sisters also wrote the play Wilhelmina, 1826.
  • Lady Margaret Sackville. Serendipity turned up the fact (far from hidden yet unreported) that her poetry, presumably her trenchant and disturbing war poetry, was well known to Wilfred Owen, who was introduced to her by Siegfried Sassoon.
  • Mary Shelley. An astronomer from Texas has established, from the phases of the moon and the exact position of her bedroom in Villa Diodati on Lake Geneva, the time and date of the waking dream in which she first “saw” the two central characters in Frankenstein. This vision came to her at 2 a.m. on the sleepless, moonlit night which followed debating the “principle” of life, which in turn followed by a few days Byron’s challenge to his companions to write a ghost story.
  • Margaret Emily Shore. Orlando is privileged by the kindness of the owner, Howard Skelton, to report on a little volume compiled by this child prodigy before she reached her teens: a collection of imaginary speeches by hypothetical future parliamentarians, written in 1832 but reaching far beyond our own era. This is separate from the two manuscript sections of her diary which came to light just in time for inclusion in the digital edition by Barbara Timm Gates.

 

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