Orlando: Women's Writing

Writers with Entries

New: July 2011

New Author Entries

  • Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655-91, colonial American Quaker, who wrote a number of works that do not survive, and published a spiritual autobiography which seems have displeased the meeting of Friends in Philadelphia.
  • Jane Johnson, 1706-59, letter-writer, poet, author of little teaching books for her children and of the earliest identified original fairy-story in English.
  • Elizabeth Smith, 1776-1826, linguist and translator. She showed some precocious literary talent, but her outstanding abilities (denied any serious scope by her gender coupled with her family's gentry status and lack of money) lay primarily in the direction of scholarship.
  • Katherine Cecil Thurston, 1875-1911, popular novelist who achieved fame and fortune with John Chilcote, MP (The Masquerader in the USA), 1904, and whose The Fly on the Wheel, 1908, curiously parallels some of the mysterious circumstances of her own death.
  • Constance Smedley, 1876-1941, journalist, playwright, novelist, and tireless activist. She took up (and wrote a fiery polemic for) the suffrage cause, then that of the English rural poor, whom she set out to educate politically through massive popular pageants. With her husband she exercised the experimental performance arts in Gloucestershire, London, and across the USA.
  • Ethel Wilson, 1888-1980. Canadian short-story writer and novelist (born in South Africa and educated partly in England) who actively opposed the concept of 'Canadian literature', while contributing importantly to it. A pioneer of regional fiction in Canada.
  • Elizabeth Jenkins, 1905-2010, novelist, writer of historical biographies (including one on Jane Austen, two on Queen Elizabeth I, and several group biographies of famous or notorious women), and a sparkling memoirist when in her nineties.
  • Philip Larkin, 1922-85, a leading twentieth-century poet despite his slender output.
  • Andrea Levy, born 1956, Black British novelist whose fiction has broadened out from modern, ostensibly multicultural London, via the bigoted city where her parents landed from Jamaica in 1946, to the epic territory of early nineteenth-century Jamaica, with slavery in its last stages.
  • Sarah Waters, born 1966, writer of historical fiction whose debut novel, Tipping the Velvet, made headlines by its outspoken presentation of Victorian-age lesbian lifestyles.

Entries Enhanced

As usual, a number of women writers have been the subject of events or ceremonies which have ranked a mention in their entries: for instance, Aphra Behn (for the appearance of the journal Aphra Behn Online, which covers other writers from the long eighteenth century as well), Wendy Cope (not only for one of the many new books mentioned in this update, but for the British Library's purchase of her electronic archive, a hard-drive containing her correspondence), Nawal El Saadawi (for participation and also comment on recent events in Egypt), Elizabeth Montagu, and Marie Stopes. Others have published new titles (including Beryl Bainbridge's posthumous The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress) or had significant new titles published about them.
  • Penelope Aubin. New information from the continuing research of Debbie Welham, Chris Mounsey, and others.
  • W. H. Auden. Nicholas Jenkins of Stanford University has a database which sets out the evidence for Auden's being related by blood or marriage to an astonishing number of women writers going back to Marguerite of Navarre and Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke.
  • Anna Brassey. Interesting details about the publication of A Voyage of the Sunbeam, from Asa Briggs's history of Longman's publishing house.
  • Sarah Butler. Here, sad to say, new scholarship leaves us with less information instead of more. The new edition of Butler's Irish Tales, 1716, by Ian Campbell Ross, Aileen Douglas and Anne Markey, erases several details of her life and even casts doubt on her existence.
  • Eliza Fenwick. Knowledge about her continues to expand. Lissa Paul, in The Children's Book Business, 2011, and in research unpublished but generously shared, has led to Orlando additions about Fenwick and several of her contemporaries.
  • Sarah Fielding. Her three hundredth anniversary came and went without challenge to the often-stated belief that her Familiar Letters between the Principal Characters in David Simple, 1747, was only the second novel that a woman published in English by subscription. (The first was The Reform'd Coquet, 1724, by Mary Davys, who went on to issue her Works by subscription.) By chance a chronological search of Orlando revealed that Elizabeth Boyd has a better claim than Fielding to second place: she published The Happy-Unfortunate by subscription in 1732. The Sarah Fielding entry has been rephrased.
  • Pam Gems. Some updating followed her death on 13 May 2011.
  • James Joyce. Orlando could not resist adding the story of how scientists wanted to include in the "first synthetic life form" (a bacterium with computer-composed DNA) the words from Portrait of the Artist about recreating life out of life. The entry now records how the Joyce estate put paid to this.
  • Fanny Kemble. Information about the extraordinary photos taken in 1915 by Amelia M. Watson for a projected, but never published, illustrated edition of Kemble's slave-plantation journal (from the research of Laura Engel).
  • Liz Lochhead has been appointed national poet of Scotland: her title is not Laureate but Makar (that is, in the Scots language maker, that is creator, that is poet). This glorious and suggestive title prodded us to change the former situation whereby a free-text search in Orlando on the word "makar" used to turn up just one result: Priscilla Bawcutt's Dunbar the Makar (Oxford: Clarendon, 1992). Now the free-text function, primed on this detail of the Scots language, allows a free-text search on "maker" to find Orlando's mentions both of William Dunbar's well-known poem beginning "I that in heill wes and gladness", written about 1505 and later known as "The Lament for the Makaris", and of Anne Stevenson's tribute series entitled A Lament for the Makers, June 2006.
  • Mary Shelley has continued to be the cause of creativity in other writers, this time through Nick Dear's hard-hitting new stage adaptation entitled Frankenstein.

Free-standing events

72 new free-standing events run from the Battle of Clontarf in Ireland in April 1014 to the defection of Anglicans to the Roman Catholic Church in April 2011 because they refuse to accept women as bishops.

Summary of Content

10 entries (8 British women writers, 1 male writer, 1 other woman writer; 72 new free-standing chronology entries; 358 new bibliographical listings; 30,714 new tags; 7,756,844 total words (exclusive of tags).
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