Classic Author Focus: Charlotte Riddell

Charlotte Riddell

Charlotte Riddell was an Irish/English writer who is best known now for stories of the supernatural. During her lifetime, she was very popular and was the author of more than 50 novels and short stories. She was also part owner and editor of St. James Magazine, a prominent London journal of the time.

Riddell was born in Carrickfergus, Ireland, the youngest daughter of the High Sheriff for County Antrim, James Cowan. When she was in her late teens, her father died, and four years later, she and her mother decided to move to London so that Charlotte could make a living as a writer (fictionalized in her 1883 novel, A Struggle for Fame).

In 1858, she published her first novel, The Moors and the Fens, and married civil engineer Joseph Hadley Riddell. Between 1858 and 1902, she published 30 novels and was known as “the novelist of the City” for her books about the financial and business worlds. In modern times, she is better known for her Victorian ghost stories.

Riddell became the co-owner and editor of St. James Magazine in 1867 and was also the editor of a magazine called Home.

After her husband died, leaving much debt, Riddell lived in seclusion but paid off the debt with her writing. She was the first person to become a pensioner of the Society of Authors. She died of cancer.

Dates: 1832-1906

Most popular works: The Uninhabited House, A Struggle for Fame, George Geith of Fen Court, Fairy Water, Weird Stories, The Haunted River

Other works: Zuriel’s Grandchildren, The Moors and the Fens, City and Suburb, Maxwell Drewitt, and many, many others

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