In This Article Charlotte Yonge

  • Introduction
  • Biographies
  • Bibliographies
  • Literature Online
  • Collected Letters
  • Editions
  • Literary Monographs and Collected Essays
  • Tractarianism
  • Domestic Realism and Religious Didacticism
  • Disability and Physicality
  • Missions and Empire
  • Literary Comparisons
  • Writing for the Young
  • Historical Writing
  • The Monthly Packet, Periodicals, and Publishing

Victorian Literature Charlotte Yonge
by
Susan Walton
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 December 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199799558-0070

Introduction

Even in an age of prolific writers, Charlotte M. Yonge (b. 1823–d. 1901) is notable for the range, quantity, and quality of her output. During her long career she was a successful novelist, editor, historian, biographer, journalist, reviewer, essayist, translator, and writer of textbooks. Although some of her books were written specifically for children, most were aimed at an adult market, particularly young adults. This breadth of accomplishment makes it hard to categorize Yonge’s achievements and has at times led literary historians to downgrade her significance. Her reputation as a close friend of John Keble and other members of the Oxford Movement bracketed her with a class of devout authors perceived to be marginal. Yet, her writing is not stridently didactic; governed by Tractarian reserve, her religious principles are implied rather than stated, and her stories were popular with a broad readership not exclusively High Church Anglican. Since the late 20th century, new awareness of both the centrality of social reform for Anglo-Catholics and of the empowerment that religious activism can bestow on women has transformed notions about the nature of Yonge’s conservatism. Also, the full extent of her journalistic work is finally receiving the attention it deserves; research has highlighted how her remarkable forty-year editorship of the Monthly Packet (1851–1893) provided a role model and an opportunity for would-be women writers and demonstrated how her views on women’s education and work evolved over the 19th century. In her own time, Yonge was renowned for her novels, particularly the bestselling story that first brought her fame, The Heir of Redclyffe (1853). Greatly admired, this book epitomized her strengths as a writer: her ability to create characters who made goodness seem attractive and to place them within recognizable, contemporary families. Many came to think of her fictional creations, such as the May family in The Daisy Chain, as real-life friends and were delighted by their reappearances in subsequent stories, in which they might be linked to and intermarried with characters from households that feature in other novels.

Biographies

Coleridge 1903 remains indispensable as a quasi-authorized biography by someone who knew Yonge well. This is usefully complemented by Romanes 1908. Battiscombe 1943 and Mare and Percival 1947 provide significant insights into Yonge not found in Coleridge 1903, based on a more speculative cross-reading of incidents in her life with characters in her novels. Dennis 1992 is the first scholarly examination of Yonge’s life and essential reading.

  • Battiscombe, Georgina. Charlotte Mary Yonge: The Story of an Uneventful Life. London: Constable, 1943.

    E-mail Citation »

    Reawakened interest in Yonge and remains valuable for details from those who knew her. Written when aspects of 19th-century society were viewed with disdain, some comments now seem condescending. Although Battiscombe enjoyed reading Yonge, calling The Daisy Chain her “constant companion for a quarter of a century and comforter in a hundred troubles” (p. 94), she damns her with faint praise, a notion that perhaps delayed a proper reassessment of her work. Introduction by E. M. Delafield.

  • Coleridge, Christabel, ed. Charlotte Mary Yonge: Her Life and Letters. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1903.

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    Obvious starting point for research. Yonge was a long-time mentor and friend of Coleridge. Yonge regarded autobiography as unseemly but still left an account of her family background and girlhood that make up the opening three chapters. Coleridge includes extracts from correspondence, some of which have since gone missing. Useful appendixes of verbatim conversations recorded by Yonge, family trees, and chronological list of her works.

  • Dennis, Barbara. Charlotte Yonge, 1823–1901: Novelist of the Oxford Movement; A Literature of Victorian Culture and Society. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen, 1992.

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    Serious examination of Yonge’s life in the context of the principles and ethos of the Oxford Movement. Emphasizes the influential social milieu in which she moved and worked and includes examination of her interest in missionary work.

  • Mare, Margaret, and Alicia C. Percival. Victorian Best-Seller: The World of Charlotte M. Yonge. London: Harrap, 1947.

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    Charming, enthusiastic account that integrates Victorian social history with episodes from Yonge’s family life and her novels. Like Battiscombe 1943, this work includes interviews with those who remembered Yonge. A useful, if nonscholarly, volume.

  • Romanes, Ethel. Charlotte Mary Yonge: An Appreciation. London: A. R. Mowbray, 1908.

    E-mail Citation »

    Memoir that provides further impressions of Yonge by those who knew her. Tribute by Lady Frederick Cavendish, née Lucy Lyttelton (b. 1841–d. 1925), is of special interest.

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