Position of women novelist in Victorian period in their works | Eminent women novelist of the Victorian Age.

The tradition of women writing in English literature had a faint beginning in the 18th century. These woman writers are much fascinated by the sensitive appeal of fiction, which led to the emergence of a number of woman novelist in the succeeding ages. In fact, woman as novelist counts more than as essayist, poets, dramatist or literary critics.

Position of women novelist in Victorian period in their works | Eminent women novelist of the Victorian Age

Novel writing by woman was first marked in the novel, EVELINA by Fanney Burney. Burney was succeeded by Mrs. Anna Radcliffe with her Gothic romances. 

Other worth mentioning novelist of this trend includes Miss. Mitiford with her "Our Village" , Mrs.Harriat Martineau with her "Deerbrooke" and Mrs. Shelly with her science fiction, "Frankenstein" . 

Although these novelists have not showed much originality or attained immense success, yet they are with a huge bulk of novels, contributing towards the popularity of woman novelists.

The writers who have carved a distinctive and high status for the woman novelists was Miss Jane Austen. Some of her most popular novels includes, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, EMMA, MANSFIELD PARK, PERSUASION and NORTHANGER ABBEY. It was through her success as a novelist that woman writing was respectively established. Her standard of writing was well cultivated and maintained by a number of talented woman novelists in the Victorian Age.

Position of women novelist with reference to some eminent women novelist of the age

Among the eminent woman novelists of the Victorian Age, the Bronte sisters, namely, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte and Anne Bronte were noted for their originality fused with realism and lyricism.

Charlotte Bronte

The eldest sister, Charlotte Bronte, stood out as the first woman novelist to show the human aspects of woman impulses and writes of life from the woman's point of view. Her four significant novels- JANE EYRE, SHIRLEY, VILLETTE and THE PROFESSOR were found impelled with her unpleasant experiences of life.

 In her first novel, JANE EYRE, published in 1847, she records a good deal of her own mental feelings and sufferings as a school girl and as a governess. The second novel, SHIRLEY, published in 1849, contains the portrait of her own sister Emily. These novels reveals the inner urge of her feminine heart and her purely personal attitude to the affairs of the world around her. Thus, she appears to be the pioneer of the novel upon emancipation of repressed womanhood.

Emily Bronte

The second Bronte sister, Emily Bronte, with her only novel WUTHERING HEIGHTS, had ensured for herself a high place in the history of English literature. This well celebrated novel, published in 1847, presents a strange world of fervent pantheism and mystic spirituality. 

Set against an immediate moorland background, this novel is a grave chronicle of the two generations of two families- the Earnshaws and the Lintons- in their moorland homes. Presenting a tragedy of love, the story exhibits crime and villainy as well as tragic suffering and death. It is an unsurpassable work of art, with the grace of lyric poetry and thus, remained a rare piece of fictional artistry.

Anne Bronte

Anne Bronte, the youngest of the Bronte sisters, couldn't exhibit a high quality of writing in her novels. She is found less vehement in her approach and expression than her more prominent sisters.

 Yet, her AGNES GREY is a moving personal record while her other noted novel THE TENANTS OF WILDFELL HALL reveals her fine power of observation.

Mrs. Elizabeth Gaskell

Another noted Victorian woman novelist was Mrs. Elizabeth Gaskell. As a novelist she stands differently from the Bronte sisters in regard to her literary inspiration as well as impulse.

Unlike the Brontes, she was not impelled by the inner world of the mind, but was inspired by her outward world, because of which most of her novels are usually social- entertaining an objective view of the real material world around. 

Mrs. Gaskell's first novel, MARY BARTON, A TALE OF MANCHESTER LIFE, published in 1848, was occasioned by her intimate knowledge of the Manchester factory hands. It is a conscious and sympathetic representation of the hard life of the workers, under the economic exploitation of the industrial masters. The novel is really powerful, disturbing and thought provoking and designated as the first 'labour novel' and also the most successful of the Victorian age.

Mrs. Gaskell's next literary venture, THE MOORLAND COTTAGE, published in 1850, appeared as a simple story, with the least number of problems. 

But this was followed by her most original, most popular and most exquisite work, CRANFORD. Published in 1853, this novel is an intimate record of a few ordinary and humble lives in a Cheshire village and well bears out her inspiration from her girlhood experiences at the quite village of Knutsford. 

This novel is a sort of prose idyll in Victorian fiction, combines humour, pathos and humanism in just proportions and deserves a rank among the minor prose classics in English.
Mrs. Gaskell's next novel, RUTH, published in 1853, is concerned with moral problems, rather than social. Her intense sympathy for unfortunate girls is clearly evident here. 

Mrs. Gaskell's interest in social problems was found revived in her more important work, NORTH AND SOUTH, published in 1855. She deals here with the same matter of MARY BARTON, although the manner is not the same.

Next, Mrs. Gaskell attempted biographical novel through her THE LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE, published in 1857. 

She continued her authorship with further works- SILVIA'S LOVER (1863), COUSIN PHILIS (1864), and WIVES AND LOVERS (1866), the last one of which, though remained unfinished is one of her loveliest works, full of psychological complexities and reveals the full maturity of her power as a novelist.

George Eliot

The most popular and prominent name among the woman novelists of the Victorian Age is George Eliot, whose actual name is Mary Ann Evans. Her novels are sombre and didactic, but has a human appeal and a psychological interest.

Eight volumes of novels stands to Eliot's credit- SCIENCE OF CLERICAL LIFE (1858), ADAM BEDE (1859), THE MILL ON THE FLOSS (1860), SILAS MARNER (1861), ROMOLA (1862-63), FELIX HOLT, THE RADICAL (1866), MIDDLEMARCE, A STUDY OF PROVINCIAL LIFE (1871-72) and DANIEL DERONDA (1876).

Her earlier three novels reveal her innate skill as a novelist. The plot of her ADAM BEDE is quite dramatic and full of suspense in an ideal pastoral setting.

THE MILL AND THE FLOSS is a more complex novel, dealing with the moral problem of human relationship. Her fictional art had a happy exhibition in novel MIDDLEMARCE, A STUDY OF PROVINCIAL LIFE . It is a masterpiece of her construction and reveals her return to her original power.

Some other woman novelists of the Victorian Age

Among the minor fictional authoresses name may be mentioned of Margaret Oliphant. She, though not being as reputed and talented to be count among the Bronte sisters, Mrs. Gaskell and George Eliot, yet wrote several novels. The main hindrance in her success was her continuous writing without any artistic restraint.


Some other novelists of this group includes , Mrs. Margaret Gatty, Mrs. Juliana Horatia Ewing, Mrs Louisa Malesworth, Mrs Craik, Mrs. Hurbert Bland and Mrs. Archer Clive. 

All of them, though couldn't contribute much, yet produced some of the popular novels, such as, Mrs. Ewing's TALES FOR CHILDREN, Mrs. Clive's PAUL FERROL and Mrs. Craik's JOHN HALIFAX. 


The Victorian woman novelists made great contributions towards the making of the golden age of English fiction, and thereby ensuring a position among their talented male counterparts. Thus, we may conclude that the woman novelists carries great significance in the development and rise of English novels.

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