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Saturday 10 September 2011

Queen Victoria's Favourite Authors

Alongside being a prolific letter-writer and lover of poetry, Queen Victoria greatly enjoyed contemporary novels, particularly those about the lives of ordinary people. Among her favourite authors were Dinah Craik, whose novel John Halifax, Gentleman was probably her most successful work (and, incidentally, made into a BBC television series in the 1970s).

Of Mrs. Craik, Queen Victoria wrote to her eldest daughter, Vicky,:
“Have you ever read two pretty, simple but very pleasantly written novels called ‘A Noble Life’ by the authoress of ‘J. Halifax’ and ‘Janet’s Home’? They have both been read to me of an evening and I like them so much. Not sensation novels but pretty, simple stories, full of truth and good feeling.”

Mrs. Oliphant was another of the Queen favourite authors and, with her love
of all things Scottish, she greatly enjoyed ‘Merkland’ which she described as ‘An old – but excellent Scotch’ novel.’ In 1868 the Queen met Mrs Oliphant whom she considered, “very pleasant and clever looking.’

Naturally, her friendship with the Prime Minister, Disraeli, led her to

greatly appreciate his novels, too, and when her own ‘Leaves from a Highland Journal’ was published, she was greatly flattered when he spoke to her as a fellow-writer, “We authors, ma’am…”

Marie Correlli - a writer of popular novels – also appealed to the Queen, as did Wilkie Collins, Dickens and George Eliot, regardless of the scandal of the latter’s private life. Harriet Beecher-Stowe’s biography of Byron, however, Queen Victoria considered shocking since it included information about the poet’s incestuous relationship with his sister.

“That Byron scandal is too shameful; I have not read it as I have a particular horror of scandal and gossip, and it is quite untrue. Mrs. Stowe has behaved shamefully.”


May said...

Very interesting! One's favorite reading gives a special insight into a person, I think.

Christina said...

Thank you, Matterhorn. I agree about one's choice of books....I must confess that when I go into someone's house for the first time, I always look firstly at the bookshelf and secondly at the CD/music collection and they really do say a great deal abou the person!