Introduction and pointers to her life and work

Charlotte M. Yonge (1823–1901) was a best-selling author in her time. Her work was read and enjoyed on the battlefields of the Crimea and in quiet English country towns, and by noted Victorians as diverse as Gladstone, Tennyson and Rossetti.

Her appeal, then and now, is due to the liveliness of her portrayal of character. Her books are peopled with large Victorian families, every member distinctly drawn and presented with insight and humour. 

Charlotte's best-selling novel, The Heir of Redclyffe, is still in print. Its hero, Sir Guy Morville, embodied the appeal of chivalry and service in modern life, and was emulated by countless young people of the day. The Heir was Yonge’s all-time bestseller, but she wrote over a hundred books, edited a magazine for fifty years, and exerted a significant influence over the lives of her readers from her quiet home near Winchester. Her books have a charm and freshness that continues to make them a "good read". 

She is still enjoyed by many devoted readers, and is increasingly becoming the subject of serious academic study. This interest is contributing to her re-evaluation and recognition as a mainstream writer. The Charlotte Mary Yonge Fellowship – a welcoming group which is open to all – exists to foster interest in her work. 


Other accounts of Charlotte's life

For a short illustrated account of Charlotte's life, see Sandra Laythorpe's excellent website.
Sandra's site also contains some wonderful photos of Charlotte's houses in the Hampshire village of Otterbourne.

For a a detailed and more scholarly introducton to Charlotte Yonge's life and works, visit The Literary Encyclopaedia for Ellen Jordan's (Newcastle University, Australia) contribution.

There is a short account of Charlotte's life from Mary K Seeger here.

The London Catholic Literature Association produced a biography of Charlotte Yonge in 1933, in their Heroes of the Catholic Revival series. Click here to see this document.

There are a number of short accounts of Charlotte's life scattered about on the internet. Try using a search engine to look for "Charlotte Mary Yonge" (Google works well).


Images of Charlottel Yonge at various ages

For (rather small) portraits of Charlotte Yonge held in the National Portrait Gallery, London – none of which are normally on display to the public – see the National Portrait Gallery website. (Click on the small pictures to expand them.)


1891 census data for Otterbourne

The following is recorded for Charlotte Yonge's house, Elderfield:

Name Age   Born
YONGE Charlotte M 67 y Author, Living On Own Means HAM Otterbourne
WALTER Gertrude 41 y Living On Own Means OVB East Indies
SPRATT Harriett 69 y House Keeper HAM Otterbourne
SPRATT Jessie Palmer 37 y Ladies Maid ESS Cranham
SAVAGE Elizabeth 50 y Cook HAM Eling
GODWIN Rosa 25 y House Maid HAM Otterbourne
SHRUBB Ann 16 y Kitchen Maid HAM Headley


Some recent opinions of Charlotte Yonge

"... the ideas that she promulgated through her books, through her personal influence and through her letters were actually major ideas for a key generation of Victorian women – the women born in the second half of the 1840's who went on to become the first generation of women head teachers, who founded the Girls' High Schools, and who became the Principals of the new women's colleges at various universities."  (Julia Courtney, Open University)

"... one could say that this (The Monthly Packet) was one of the first teenage magazines that was ever written ...  " (Amy de Gruchy, UCL)

"... she's not a feminist, but she doesn't say that being a woman lets you out of anything at all ... " (Julia Courtney, Open University)

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