Classic Author Focus: Charlotte M. Yonge

Photo of Charlotte M. Yonge

For the last Classics Club Spin, I read The Heir of Redclyffe by Charlotte M. Yonge. I was surprised to find out that Yonge, whom I had never heard of, was just as popular in her time as Dickens or Thackeray. In fact, The Heir of Redclyffe was her first successful novel, and it was a big seller, published in 1853. I thought that made Yonge a good author to pick for a new series of author biographies that some readers requested in our survey.

As a girl, Yonge received a good education from her father, studying Latin, French, geometry, and algebra. I need not mention that this was unusual for the time.

Yonge was influenced by the Oxford Movement, which argued for the return to the ideals of the 17th century within the Church of England and which eventually developed into Anglo-Catholicism. (I remember this issue being referred to in some Trollope and Oliphant novels.) She used the profits from her novels for charitable causes. The Heir of Redclyffe appealed to its contemporary audience because it made goodness and right behavior seem romantic. In fact, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was founded based on the ideals of its hero.

Yonge was highly respected in her time, not only for being a prolific novelist but also for being a serious historian, but she was eventually all but forgotten.

Dates: 1823-1901

Most popular works: The Heir of Redclyffe, Heartsease, The Daisy Chain

Other works: Besides other novels, nonfiction works such as Cameos from English History and Life of John Coleridge Paterson: Missionary Bishop of the Melanesian Islands

Other accomplishments: Edited a magazine for girls, The Monthly Packet

If you enjoyed this profile, please suggest names for other authors in the comments.


17 thoughts on “Classic Author Focus: Charlotte M. Yonge

  1. For some reason I always assumed The Heir of Radclyffe was a Gothic novel! I remember it is mentioned in Little Women. I’ll have to check it out. 😀

    Authors to highlight?
    Frederick Douglass
    Elizabeth Gaskell
    Toni Morrison
    Ralph Waldo Emerson
    Abraham Lincoln (hey, he wrote!)
    Harriet Beecher Stowe
    Walt Whitman
    Rebecca West
    Olive Schreiner
    James Baldwin
    Zora Neale Hurston
    Sigrid Undset
    M.M. Kaye
    V.S. Naipaul
    W.E.B. DuBois
    Doris Lessing
    Vera Brittain
    Winifred Holtby
    Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez
    Laura Ingalls Wilder
    Thomas Hardy
    Wilfred Owen
    C.S. Lewis
    H.G. Wells
    John Bunyan
    Daniel Defoe
    Henry David Thoreau
    Edith Wharton
    Virginia Woolf

    Uh, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ARE YOU SERIOUS about the Pre-Raphaelites?? This I have to investigate. I’ve read The Heir of Redclyffe and The Daisy Chain; Yonge is pretty fun to read if you like very moral stories about mid-Victorian families. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a copy IRL, but free digital copies are easy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I’m going to ask people to suggest who I should do next. Some of my fellow moderators have suggested that for October, we do a spooky author. Maybe Shirley Jackson? Although most people are aware of her, and it would be more fun to write about people we are less aware of. I think I’m going to be employing my book A Jury of Her Peers.


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