Victorian Literature Ellen Wood (Mrs. Henry Wood)
by
Andrew Scott Mangham
  • LAST REVIEWED: 06 May 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 02 March 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199799558-0081

Introduction

Ellen (Mrs. Henry) Wood (b. 1814–d. 1887) was one of the best-selling British novelists of the 19th century. Best known for her sensational potboiler East Lynne (1861), she published over forty books in addition to reams of essays, reviews, and short stories. She was born in 1814 into the family of a successful glove manufacturer, Thomas Price, and, despite a spinal curvature that developed in adolescence and plagued her for the rest of her life, she excelled at her studies. In 1836 she married Henry Wood, and spent the next twenty years living in France. When her husband left his employment in the 1850s, for reasons that are still unclear, Mrs. Wood became her family’s main breadwinner by writing short stories for a range of family periodicals. Her first full-length novel, Danesbury House (1860), was soon followed by the vastly popular East Lynne. In 1867 Wood bought the until-then risqué periodical the Argosy and edited it until her death in 1887.

General Overviews

There are no book-length overviews of Ellen Wood’s life and works, although the author and her art are attracting an increasing amount of critical attention. Liggins and Maunder 2008 is the nearest we get to a printed overview of Wood, while The Ellen Wood Website offers the most detailed general account of the author.

  • The Ellen Wood (Mrs Henry Wood) Website.

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    Compiled by Wood scholar Michael Flowers, this is a brilliantly detailed website, featuring invaluable bibliographies of Wood’s work, plus e-texts of early criticism. Particularly valuable is the index of the Johnny Ludlow stories, featuring short synopses of each.

  • Liggins, Emma, and Andrew Maunder, eds. Special Edition on Ellen (Mrs Henry) Wood. Women’s Writing 15.2 (2008).

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    An excellent resource offering seven essays on Wood’s life and works. Besides the focus on the author, there is no single theme uniting the essays; topics include Wood’s status as a biographical subject plus her literary representations of France, evangelicalism, class, death, illness, and the supernatural.

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