This book is an investigation of the biases, contradictions, errors, ambiguities, gaps, and historical contexts in biographies of controversial British women who published during the long nineteenth century, many of them left unchecked and perpetuated from publication to publication. Fourteen scholars analyze the agenda, problems, and strengths of biographical material, highlighting the flaws, deficiencies, and influences that have distorted the portraits of women such as Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Hays, Sydney Owenson, Letitia Elizabeth Landon, Felicia Hemans, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Caroline Norton, Elizabeth Gaskell, Charlotte Brontë, Lady Florence Dixie, George Eliot, and Edith Simcox. Through exposing distortions, this fascinating study demonstrates that biographies are often more about the biographer than they are about the biographee and that they are products of the time in which they are written.
Brenda Ayres teaches at Liberty University and to date has published 27 books in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century English literature. Her most recent publications are on Mary Wollstonecraft and include: Betwixt and Between the Biographies of Mary Wollstonecraft, Wollstonecraft's War with Womanhood, and An "Accountable Being": Mary Wollstonecraft and Religion.
Introduction; or, What You Will.- Genteel Appropriations of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762): Sex, Sensibility, and Taste in Victorian Family Biography by Magdalena Nerio.- A Vindication of the Woman Known as Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797).- The Constructed Letters of Mary Hays (1759-1843).- So Irish; so modish, so mixtish, so wild": Sydney Owenson (Lady Morgan) (1781-1838) and The Makings of a Life.-Letitia Elizabeth Landon (1802-1838).- Whose Poetess?The After-Lives of Felicia Hemans (1793-1835): Biographical Misconstructions.-"Stuck Through with a Pin and Beautifully Preserved": Curating the Life of "Elizabeth Barrett Browning".- Harriet Martineau (1802-1876) Autobiography, Biography, and Literary Legacies.- Caroline Norton (1808-1877): The Injured Wife, Scandal, and the Politics of Feminist Memory .- The Biographer as Biographee: Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865).- Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855): (Un)Masked Author to Mythic Woman .- An Unconventional and Contradictory Life: Lady Florence Dixie.- A Woman Whom Men Could More Than Love": Transfiguring the Unlovely in George Eliot (1819-1880).- Irony upon Irony: The Persistence of Gordon Haight's Perceptions of Edith Simcox (1844-1901).