Classic Author Focus: Margaret Oliphant

Margaret Oliphant

Margaret Oliphant was a prolific Scottish writer who is best known for her domestic realism novels, although she also wrote historical novels and tales of the supernatural. She led a very sad life. She wrote under the name of “Mrs. Oliphant.”

The daughter of a clerk, Oliphant began writing at an early age and published her first novel, Passages in the Life of Mrs. Margaret Maitland, in 1849. After she published her second novel, she met the publisher of Blackwood’s Magazine, who encouraged her to contribute. She published around 100 articles in the magazine during her lifetime.

In 1852, she married her cousin, Frank Wilson Oliphant, a worker in stained glass, and the couple moved to London. Three of their six children had already died when her husband died of tuberculosis in 1859. Grief stricken, Oliphant moved back to England from Italy, where the family had been residing for her husband’s health, and from then on she struggled to support her children by her writing. She was already a popular writer, but she is best known for four novels and several novellas called The Chronicles of Carlingford, which she published between 1861 and 1876.

In 1863, her one remaining daughter died. Her two remaining sons were not successful in their careers and died before Oliphant. After her last son’s death, her health steadily declined, and she died at Wimbledon in 1897.

Dates: 1828-1897

Most popular works: The Chronicles of Carlingford, especially Salem Chapel, The Perpetual Curate, Miss Marjoribanks, and Phoebe Junior; Passages in the Life of Mrs. Margaret Maitland; Merkland; Kirsteen

Other works: A Beleaguered City, A Little Pilgrim in the Unseen, and more than 100 other novels as well as several short stories, articles, biographies, and critical works

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9 thoughts on “Classic Author Focus: Margaret Oliphant

    1. Juliette, I forgot that she is on vacation in France right now. If you will send me the link to your Classics Club list, I will update the Members page.

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  1. I haven’t tried her yet, but her novel Hester is on my new CC list. I believe she also wrote quite a few ghost stories and I’ve been meaning to try those. What a sad life she led indeed!

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  2. What a tragic life! It’s incredible to think how one person could be faced with so many losses and disappointments . . . I’m impressed she found the strength and focus needed to write at all.

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