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Eliza Lynn Linton

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Eliza Lynn Linton
Portrait of Eliza Lynn Linton, by W. & D. Downey, 1890
Portrait of Eliza Lynn Linton, by W. & D. Downey, 1890
BornEliza Lynn
(1822-02-10)10 February 1822
Keswick, Cumbria, England
Died14 July 1898(1898-07-14) (aged 76)
Westminster, London
SpouseWilliam James Linton
RelativesJames Lynn (father), Charlotte Alicia Lynn (mother)

Eliza Lynn Linton (10 February 1822 – 14 July 1898) was the first female salaried journalist in Britain and the author of over 20 novels. Despite her path-breaking role as an independent woman, many of her essays took a strong anti-feminist slant.[1]


Linton was born in Keswick, Cumbria, England, the youngest of the twelve children of the Rev. James Lynn, vicar of Crosthwaite, and his wife Charlotte, who was the daughter of a bishop of Carlisle.[2] The death of her mother when Eliza was five months old meant a chaotic upbringing, in which she was largely self-educated, but in 1845 she left home to earn her living as a writer in London.[3]

After moving to Paris, she married W. J. Linton in 1858,[4] an eminent wood-engraver, who was also a poet of note, a writer on his craft, and a Chartist agitator. She moved into his ramshackle house, Brantwood, in the Lake District, with his seven children from an earlier marriage, and wrote there a novel set locally: Lizzie Lorton of Greyrigg.[5] The couple also lived at Gang Moor on the edge of Hampstead Heath for several years.[6] In 1867 they separated amicably, her husband going to America and Eliza going back to life as a London writer.

Linton returned briefly to her childhood home in Cumbria in 1889, to feel "half in a dream here. It is Keswick and yet not Keswick, as I am Eliza Lynn and yet not Eliza Lynn."[3] She usually lived in London until about three years before her death, when she retired to Brougham House, Malvern. She died at Queen Anne's Mansions, London, on 14 July 1898. Her ashes were scattered in Crosthwaite churchyard.[7][3]


Linton arrived in London in 1845 as a protégée of the novelist William Harrison Ainsworth and the poet Walter Savage Landor.[2] At one time she was promoted by Theodosia Monson, who was a champion of women's rights.[8] In 1846 she produced her first novel, Azeth, the Egyptian, which was followed by Amymone (1848) and Realities (1851). Neither had great success. Meanwhile she began working as a journalist and became acquainted with George Eliot. Linton joined the staff of the Morning Chronicle in 1849,[2] a position said to have made her the first woman to be paid a salary as a journalist.[9] She left the paper in 1851 over a disagreement.[2]

During her time in Paris, Linton was a correspondent for The Leader, which her husband had helped found. She was a regular contributor to Charles Dickens's Household Words and to St James's Gazette, the Daily News, Ainsworth's Magazine, The Cornhill Magazine and other leading newspapers.[10] The prolific Linton became one of the best-known women periodical contributors of her time.[2] Her 1864 guide to The Lake Country still bears reading for tart comments on the tourist rituals of the Victorians.[11]

In 1881 and 1883 she travelled to Palermo, where she met Tina Whitaker and encouraged her to write.[12]

After separating from her husband, Linton returned to writing novels, in which she finally attained wide popularity. Her most successful works were The True History of Joshua Davidson (1872), Patricia Kemball (1874), and The Autobiography of Christopher Kirkland (1885),[1] the latter being in fact a thinly disguised autobiography.[3] In 1896, she became one of the first women to be elected to the Society of Authors and was the first woman to serve on the society's committee.[2]


Linton was a severe critic of early feminism. Her prominent essay on the subject, "The Girl of the Period,"[13] appeared in the Saturday Review in 1868 as a vehement attack. In 1891, she wrote "Wild Women as Politicians", explaining her view that politics were naturally the sphere of men, as was fame of any sort. "Amongst our most renowned women," she wrote, "are some who say with their whole heart, I would rather have been the wife of a great man, or the mother of a hero, than what I am, famous in my own person." Linton exemplifies how the fight against votes for women was not organised only by men (see Anti-suffragism).

Her obituary in The Times noted her "animosity towards all, or rather, some of those facets which may be conveniently called the 'New Woman'," but added that "it would perhaps be difficult to reduce Mrs. Lynn Linton's views on what was and what was not desirable for her own sex to a logical and connected form." Revisionist critics have noted an unconscious sympathy for the dashing "modern women" in her fiction,[14] and to her support for the right of married women to own property and so gain greater independence.[15] (See Married Women's Property Act 1870 and Married Women's Property Act 1882.)

Linton's contribution to a symposium on English fiction in 1890 took a less aggressive stance towards Grundyism than her fellow-contributor Thomas Hardy.[16]


Selected articles[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b I. Ousby, ed., The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English (1995) p. 560.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Onslow, Barbara (2000). Women of the Press in Nineteenth-Century Britain. Macmillan Press. ISBN 0333683781.
  3. ^ a b c d G. Lindop, A Literary Guide to the Lake District (1993) p. 180.
  4. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 22 January 2009.
  5. ^ G. Lindop, A Literary Guide to the Lake District (1993) pp. 371–372.
  6. ^ "A History of the County of Middlesex: Vol. 9, Hampstead, Paddington. British History Online". Victoria County History. 1989. Retrieved 26 June 2020.
  7. ^ Wikisource This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainGarnett, Richard (1901). "Linton, Eliza Lynn". In Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography (1st supplement). London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  8. ^ Waddington, Patrick (2004). "Monson, Theodosia, Lady Monson (1803–1891), dilettante and promoter of women's rights". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/59337. Retrieved 29 December 2020. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  9. ^ Anderson, Nancy Fix (2004). "Linton, Elizabeth [Eliza] Lynn (1822–1898), writer". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/16742. Retrieved 29 December 2020. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  10. ^ "Linton, Eliza Lynn," The Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th Edition, 1911.
  11. ^ G. Lindop, A Literary Guide to the Lake District (1993) pp. 202 and 408.
  12. ^ Edwards, Andrew (2014). Sicily : a literary guide for travellers. London. ISBN 978-1780767949.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  13. ^ Modern Women and What Is Said of Them: A Reprint of a Series of Articles in The Saturday Review, p. 25, J. S. Redfield, 1868, [reprinted in The Living Age, 22 April 1922].
  14. ^ Constance Harsh, "Eliza Lynn Linton as a New Woman Novelist" in Deborah Meem, ed., "The Rebel of the Family" (Broadview, 2002) p. 473.
  15. ^ M. L. Sharley, Feminism, Marriage and the Law in Victorian England (1993) p. 61–62.
  16. ^ M. Seymour Smith, Hardy (1994) pp. 389–390.
  17. ^ The Fate of Madame Cabanel, The New York Times, 19 January 1873


  • Deirdre d'Albertis (1996), "Make-believers in Bayswater and Belgravia: Bronte, Linton, and the Victorian Flirt," Victorians Institute Journal 24
  • Nancy Fix Anderson (1987), Woman Against Women in Victorian England: A Life of Eliza Lynn Linton. Indiana University Press
  • Nancy Fix Anderson (1989), "Eliza Lynn Linton, Dickens, and the Woman Question," Victorian Periodicals Review 22, No. 4, 134–141 JSTOR 20082411
  • Andrea Lynn Broomfield (2001), "Much More Than an Antifeminist: Eliza Lynn Linton's Contributions to the Rise of Victorian Popular Journalism," Victorian Literature and Culture 29 (2), 267–283
  • Andrea Lynn Broomfield (2004), "Eliza Lynn Linton, Sarah Grand and the Spectacle of the Victorian Woman Question: Catch Phrases, Buzz Words and Sound Bites," English Literature in Transition, 1880–1920 47 (3), 251–272
  • Elizabeth Latta Brother (1999), "A Profession of Their Own: A Study of the Journalistic, Margaret Oliphant, Eliza Lynn Linton, and Emilia Dilke," Dissertation Abstracts International 60 (5)
  • Judith Flanders (2004), Inside the Victorian Home: a Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England. New York: W. W. Norton
  • Christopher Herbert (1983), "He Knew He Was Right, Mrs. Lynn Linton, and the Duplicities of Victorian Marriage," Texas Studies in Literature and Language 25 (3), 448–469
  • George Somes Layard (1901), Mrs. Lynn Linton; Her Life, Letters, and Opinions. London: Methuen & Co
  • Frederick Sessions (1905), "A Successful Novelist: Eliza Lynn Linton," in Literary Celebrities of the English Lake-District. London: Eliot Stock
  • Herbert Van Thal (1979), Eliza Lynn Linton: The Girl of the Period: A Biography. London/Boston: Allen and Unwin
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainCousin, John William (1910). A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London: J. M. Dent & Sons – via Wikisource.

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