Skip to main content

Favourite Authors: Charlotte Mary Yonge

https://archive.org/stream/cu31924013577527#page/n9/mode/2up
Image: Public Domain

Charlotte Mary Yonge (1823-1901) was an extremely popular and prolific author in the Victorian era, which her writing career more or less spanned; her first book, Le Chateau de Melville, was privately printed in 1838, and her last, Modern Broods, was published in 1900. Despite this, she is almost forgotten nowadays. However, she was very influential at the time and was admired by many contemporary authors such as George Eliot, Anthony Trollope, Christina Rossetti, and (especially) Louisa May Alcott. Although her books were definitely "of their time" in terms of the prevailing morality and sensibilities present in many of them, which is one of the reasons why they are not read much today, I think there are still things that can be appreciated about them today (although they are not for everyone). She is most known for her Victorian domestic chronicles, which detail the lives of (usually very large) families of characters, most of whom are interconnected (which can be confusing). She also wrote a fair amount of historical fiction, as well as non-fiction. (There is a complete list of her works, with links to download many of them for free, here.)
 
1383791
 
Her most famous book is The Heir of Redclyffe (1853), one of the bestselling books of the Victorian era, and generally considered to be one of Charlotte Yonge's best. In short, it's a story about a series of misunderstandings between two cousins which lead to tragic consequences. It's also a good example of a Victorian domestic story and the characters and interactions between Philip, Guy, and their other cousins, the Edmonstones, are the main point of the story really. Characterisation is probably Charlotte Yonge's strong point, particularly in this book, and I really like some of the secondary characters, Charles and Charlotte Edmonstone in particular. (It's also mentioned as being read by both Jo March in Little Women and Rebecca Randall in Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.) The sequel, The Trial, is also pretty good.
 
611947

Another book is The Daisy Chain, which is about a family of 11 children, whose lives are changed near the start of the book by a carriage accident involving several members of the family. The story  basically chronicles the lives of the children (focusing mostly on the middle few) as they grow up: there are school and home troubles, ambitions, romance, marriage, births, deaths. The central character is Ethel, who is at first awkward and bookish, and whose dream is to build a school and a church for Cocksmoor, a poor area near where they live; this is the central climax of the novel. This book was supposed to be a part of the inspiration for Little Women, and, although I prefer LW to this, it's still worth a read. It's also a good starting point for the "linked novels", and some characters from it return in other books.

The Pillars of the House is in a similar vein to The Daisy Chain, although in this case there are thirteen children, who are orphaned fairly early on in the story, leaving the responsibility of looking after the family largely on the shoulders of the eldest two children, the "pillars of the house" of the title, Felix and Wilmet (who at the start of the story are aged 16 and 15). Again this chronicles the ups and downs of life for the family, with some children getting more attention than others. At around 1100 pages it's very long, and does drag a bit at times, but this does allow for a lot of development of the characters, and the book covers a long period of time (about 18 years). It isn't as good as The Daisy Chain, but the characters are mostly well-drawn and likeable and the younger ones are probably more fleshed out than some of the May family are.
 
I've not read any of her historical novels, except for The Little Duke which I didn't particularly care for (although it's among her most popular books, so don't let that put you off), but I intend to (The Chaplet of Pearls, which is set in 16th century France, is on my Classics Club list). I do find I usually have to be in the mood to read one of her books though, so I'm not sure how soon I'll be picking it up.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Top Ten Tuesday: Forgotten Classics

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Today's theme is Ten Hidden Gem Books in X Genre. I've decided go for classics, so I'm listing ten older books that have been mostly forgotten or that I think should be better known:
A Cathedral Courtshipby Kate Douglas Wiggin A sweet romantic tale combined with a tour of English cathedrals
The Heir of Redclyffe by Charlotte Mary Yonge A tragic Victorian bestseller
White Boots by Noel Streatfeild A story about family, friendship, and ice skating
The Story of the Treasure Seekers by E. Nesbit Six children determine to restore their family's fortunes - but things don't really go according to plan
Seven Sisters at Queen Anne's by Evelyn Smith Seven sisters go off to school for the first time,
Half Magic by Edward Eager A magic coin that only grants half of what you wish for - what could possibly go wrong?
Jane of Lantern Hillby L.M. Montgomery I've reviewed this recently here.
Young Bess by Margar…

Book Review: The Bookseller's Tale by Ann Swinfen

SummaryThe Bookseller's Tale is the first in a series of mysteries set in 14th-century Oxford. The book takes place a few years after the population has been decimated by the Black Death, the effects of which are still widely felt. Nicholas Elyot, the main character, is a bookseller who lost his wife to the plague. One day he finds the body of a student in the River Cherwell, and discovers that his death was not due to natural causes. The town authorities don't seem to have any interest in investigating the murder, but Nicholas and his friend Jordain Brinkylsworth, a member of the university, feel they owe it to the victim to find out. Thoughts  One of the big things I liked about this book was the historical detail - we find out quite a bit about medieval Oxford, the university, and particularly about Nicholas' work as a bookseller, which I found really interesting. Some readers might not enjoy these details as they mean there is a little less focus on the mystery, but I…

October Books

I haven't done a monthly recap post for a while, but I haven't posted much lately so I thought I'd do a summary of what I've read this month. Firstly, I finally finished Lord of the Rings! I think it's been round about a year, perhaps just over, since I first picked up The Fellowship of the Ring. I tend to be very slow about reading long books - I need to take breaks to read other things in the middle - but I didn't quite expect to take so long to finish. I did enjoy it, and am partly tempted to start over again with FOTR, since it feels like an age since I read that. At any rate, I can now say that I have read it.
I made some progress with Mount TBR this month; I'm still hopelessly behind my goal of 24 books, but I did get a few off: The Return of the King (as mentioned above), Scarlet by Marissa Meyer, and Forged in the Fire by Ann Turnbull. Scarlet was a disappointment - despite having really enjoyed Cinder (last year), I found this a bit of a chore to …