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Mary Augusta Ward entry: Overview screen.
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Overview
Writing
Life
Writing and Life
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Best known for her influential loss-of-faith novel Robert Elsmere, Mary Augusta Ward was among the more prolific and popular novelists of the later Victorian and Edwardian periods. Her fifty-year career spanned an era of enormous transformation. During it she produced twenty-five novels, an autobiography, journalism (including reviews and literary criticism), a children's book, a translation, and several works of war propaganda. Her more serious earlier works were weighty novels of ideas in the tradition of George Eliot, which seek to chart the complex relationships among character, intellect, religion, and morality. Her work insistently takes up what she sees as the pressing social issues of her day, shifting in the early twentieth century to briefer works on a much wider geographical canvas and then taking up the war effort in both fiction and prose. It displays an abiding interest in the social, intellectual, and sexual relations between men and women. The education and occupations of women are recurrent themes, and Oxford with its intellectual ferment a common setting. Although Mary Augusta Ward's nationalism, imperialism, and anti-suffrage stance cast her as conservative to recent readers, she was a reformer, in her earlier years a democrat, and an acute analyst of gender who believed strongly in the currents of progress and the transformative power of texts.
Milestones
11 June 1851 MAW was born Mary Augusta Arnold in Hobart Town, Tasmania. She was the eldest of eight children. Bibliographic Citation link.
1870 The publishing career of Mary Augusta Arnold (later MAW) began when the Churchman's Companion, edited by Felicia Skene, accepted her work "A Westmoreland Story". Bibliographic Citation link.
24 February 1888 MAW's most popular and critically acclaimed novel, Robert Elsmere, appeared in three volumes. Bibliographic Citation link.
May 1888 Former Prime-Minister and MP William Gladstone's attack on MAW's heterodoxy, "'Robert Elsmere' and the Battle of Belief", appeared in the Nineteenth Century. Bibliographic Citation link.
17 September 1908 MAW's Diana Mallory, which is considered to be possibly the first novelestic application of Freudian theory, was published. Bibliographic Citation link.
November 1919 MAW's Cousin Philip appeared (Helena in the US) featuring a New Woman; the last novel she wrote (though not the last published), it received little attention. Bibliographic Citation link.
24 March 1920 MAW died in London from bronchitis and gradual heart failure. Bibliographic Citation link.
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