OBITUARY OF MISS CHARLOTTE YONGE
The Times, 26th March, 1901
"Not only to the gentle inmates of country rectories, but to many people who lay claim to a wider literary appreciation than is sometimes to be found there, the news of Miss Charlotte Yonge’s death comes with a sense of a personal loss. She died on Sunday at Otterbourne, near Winchester, where she was born on August 11th, 1823. The daughter of Mr William Crawley Yonge, JP, sometime of the 52nd regiment, and Frances Mary Bargus, she was educated at home by her parents, and her life, apart from her writings and her 30 years’ editorship of the Monthly Packet was not outwardly different from the lives of thousands of home-keeping English gentlewomen. Her friends, and especially her poorer neighbours, knew both the strength and the winning charm of her character. Thus the late Archbishop Benson noted in his diary her ‘odd majesty and kindliness, which are very strong’.
But it is of course as a writer that Miss Yonge will be remembered. She had an inventive mind and a ready pen, and a bare list of the books written or edited by her would probably occupy nearly a whole column of The Times. She wrote chiefly for young people, especially young girls, and her books are the result not only of a strong ethical purpose, but also of her firm devotion to the High Church view of Christian doctrine and practice. No doubt this caused her to be ignored by many hasty literary critics, who regarded her as beneath consideration, under the mistaken idea that her books were merely ‘goody-goody’ tracts in the guise of fiction, or at best, sentimental tales of dull girls. Against this view must be set the fact that her books were and still are read and re-read with keen delight not only by young girls but by older people whose literary judgment is not to be despised. Nor are her readers by any means limited to members of the Church of England, or even to believers in any form of Christianity. The truth is that her power of telling a story and her power of delineating character were great enough to throw certain obvious defects into the shade. Her earlier works seem nowadays too controversial, and at times even morbid, and this is notably the case with The Heir of Redclyffe, the best known of all her books. But as her mental powers matured these characteristics became less and less observable, though still she always clung to her ethical purpose, and had no sympathy for ‘art for art’s sake’ in literature."
Cecilia Bass writes:
[The second half of the Obituary is devoted to listing her main publications, her work for the Melanesian Mission (eg £2,000 donated by her from the sales of The Daisy Chain), details of the University scholarship founded at the Winchester High School for Girls and bearing her name. There is a paragraph on her influence on other writers, especially William Morris and friends. The last word is given to Canon Dixon, a minor Pre-Raphaelite, on The Heir of Redclyffe, which he declared to be “Unquestionably one of the finest books in the world”.]
15th June 1901
“The will bears the date December 17, 1897, with a codicil of May 25, 1900, of Miss Charlotte Mary Yonge of Elderfield, Otterbourne, Hants., author of The Heir of Redclyffe, who died on March 24 last. Miss Yonge bequeathed to her executors the copyright of The Daisy Chain, in trust for sale, to be in trust for the mission to the Melanesian Islands, and she bequeathed her collection of shells and dried flowers and her books on botany and conchology to Winchester College, but her niece, Helen Emma Yonge, is to retain the collection during her pleasure. She bequeathed in trust for the Otterbourne Parish Schools whilst they are Voluntary Church Schools, £100. The late Miss Yonge’s estate has been valued at £12,913.11s.3d gross including personal estate of the n4 value of £10,809.13s.5d.”
Cecilia Bass writes:
(Other wills listed in the same volume include that of a Suffolk farmer who left personal estate of £67,054. A Miss Barclay of Hampshire left personal estate of £26,170. A comparison of these figures with Charlotte Yonge’s relatively modest estate would suggest that though she was by no means poor, she was not as wealthy as might be expected from a best-selling novelist, whose books continued to sell right through the nineteenth century. It seems reasonable then to conclude from the details given in the Obituary and the Will that she gave away most of the proceeds of her work, including all the profits of The Daisy Chain).
THE FUNERAL OF MISS CHARLOTTE YONGE
30th March, 1901
“The remains of the late Miss Charlotte M Yonge were laid to rest yesterday afternoon in the churchyard at Otterbourne. The body had lain in the church all through the previous night, and yesterday morning there was a requiem celebration of the Holy Communion. The funeral service, which was attended by a large number of friends, villagers and admirers of the author from far and near, was conducted by the Rev. H A Bowles, the vicar of the parish, assisted by the Dean of Winchester and the Rev. H W Brock. The grave was lined with moss, primroses and daffodils, and is at the foot of the cross erected many years ago to the memory of Keble, the author of The Christian Year. A large number of floral tributes were placed on the grave, all of them eloquent of the esteem and regard in which Miss Yonge was held.”
From Yale University Library catalogue
Two sermons preached at S. Matthews', Otterbourne.
Moberly, Robert Campbell, 1845-1903
Charlotte Yonge's Grave
For a description and photograph of Charlotte's grave in Otterbourne Churchyard, see Sandra Laythorpe's excellent website.