Becoming a Woman of Letters: Myths of Authorship and Facts of the Victorian Market

Linda Peterson
Princeton University Press
July 2009
ISBN: 978-0691140179

Becoming a Woman of Letters examines the various ways women writers negotiated the market realities of authorship, including the myths and models that women constructed to elevate their place in the profession.  Some, like Harriet Martineau, adopted the practices of her male counterparts and wrote for periodicals before producing a bestseller; others, like Mary Howitt and Alice Meynell, began in literary partnerships with their husbands and pursued independent careers later in life; still others, like Charlotte Brontë and her successors Charlotte Riddell and Mary Cholmondeley, wrote from obscure parsonages or isolated villages, hoping that an acclaimed novel might spark a meteoric rise to fame. Peterson considers these women authors’ successes and failures—the critical esteem that led to financial rewards and lasting reputations, as well as the initial successes undermined by publishing trends and pressures. Drawing on extensive research in archives, this book provides a comprehensive account of the flowering of literary professionalism in the nineteenth