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.
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.