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Eliza Lynn Linton

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Published : 84 Articles
Pen Names : None
Date of Birth : 10/2/1822
Death : 14/7/1898
Views : 1911

Journalist and novelist; daughter of a Cumberland clergyman. No schooling; "did lessons" with eldest sister; read books in her father's library; taught herself languages. Early began writing verses and stories. In 1845, with grudging consent of her father, went to London to read at British Museum and complete a novel that she had begun. Published Azeth, the Egyptian, 1846, at her own expense; the book favourably reviewed in the Times. Sold her second novel, Amymone, 1848, to Bentley. In the Examiner, July 22 1848, appeared the laudatory verses: "Walter Savage Landor to Eliza Lynn, on her Amymone". Had met Landor shortly before; became his close friend—his "dear daughter". Turned to journalism for a livelihood. In 1848 obtained position on staff of Morning Chronicle at twenty guineas a month; was thus first English woman newspaper writer to draw fixed salary. From that time to end of her life wrote for more than thirty-five periodicals; much of her writing in Literary Gazette, Saturday Review, Cornhill, Pall Mall Gazette. Author of some twenty-five novels and collections of stories, her two best novels being The True History of Joshua Davidson and The Autobiography of Christopher Kirkland. Also brought out in book form some of her periodical articles. Was throughout her life an independent thinker in matters of religion and social relationships; in middle life abandoned the "advanced" ideas that she had formerly held on position of women. In 1858 married William James Linton, the wood engraver; the marriage an unsatisfactory one.


Through Landor, in her early days of friendship with him, Miss Lynn made the acquaintance of Dickens. She thereafter saw Dickens socially at various times, but was never a close friend of his. She shrewdly appraised him as having "a strain of hardness in his nature", despite his writing "so tenderly, so sentimentally, so gushingly". " ... if I had wanted a tender and sympathetic father confessor, I would have gone to the creator of Becky Sharp rather than to him who wrote 'The Chimes' and 'The Christmas Carol'" (My Literary Life, pp. 64, 70). Miss Lynn's business transactions with H.W. and A.Y.R. were not through Dickens, but through Wills, later a close personal friend. She first met Wills in Paris, where in the early 1850s she was working for a periodical, and from Paris she sent her first contributions to H.W. Often in straitened circumstances at the time, she was grateful for the advance payments forwarded to her from Wellington Street.

Dickens came to value Miss Lynn highly as a writer for his journals. "Good for anything, and thoroughly reliable" he wrote against her name when at one time making out a list of contributors (Layard, Mrs. Lynn Linton, p. 81). Some of her early H.W. contributions, however, he was critical of for one reason or another. "Marie's Fever", in which he altered some of the wording, was "twaddly"; "French Love", a "Balzac-imitation in poking a little knife into the social peculiarities of France", was inopportune at the time that Miss Lynn submitted it; Wills was to let it stand over. "Sentiment and Action", though very clever, was less "wholesome" than Emily Jolly's "A Wife's Story" and appeared to disadvantage beside Harriet Parr's Gilbert Massenger (to Wills, July 17 1853; October 14 1854; July 22 1855). Other of Miss Lynn's contributions (or supposed contributions) he saw as verging too close to impropriety for his family journal. One of her items motivated his comment: "I don't know how it is that she gets so near the sexual side of things as to be a little dangerous to us at times" (to Wills, October 6 1854: MSS Huntington Library). An item that he characterized as "bawdy" was "By Miss Lynn, I suppose"; and "Langthwaite" was to be scrutinized for the possible "court Bawdry" that it might contain (to Wills, November 24 1855; January 9 1856: MSS Huntington Library). Among Miss Lynn's contributions that Dickens liked was "Winifred's Vow"—"a very pretty story indeed"; "Epidemics" was commendable for having "a purpose in it" (to Wills, September 5 1855; April 27 1856). "Duelling in France", assigned in the Office Book jointly to Miss Lynn and Dickens, was revised by Dickens; it was not an actual collaboration of the two writers.

When Bradbury & Evans in 1859 established Once a Week as a rival to Dickens's A.Y.R.; Mrs. Linton was asked to contribute to their periodical. Reluctant to refuse the advantageous offer and equally reluctant to seem disloyal to Dickens, she wrote to ask whether he objected to her writing for both journals. Dickens "replied that she could not write too much" for A.Y.R., that whatever she wrote would be warmly welcomed and would have precedence in the periodical. "He said that he looked upon himself as her editor of right, and made it perfectly clear that any commerce with the opposition would be regarded as a personal injury" (Layard, p. 126). Mrs. Linton refused Once a Week's tempting offer. Dickens's letters during the years of Mrs. Linton's A.Y.R. contributorship indicate that he treated her with something of the consideration due her as a well-known professional journalist whose writings were in demand. When he thought an adjective should be deleted from a comment in one of her articles, he suggested that Wills make the deletion "and let her know"; when he took out certain comments from her "John Wilson" (November 29 1862), he asked Wills to explain the reason—a personal one—for the deletion. The article itself he found "admirable"—"most admirable" (to Wills, July 12 1860; November 11 1862). Some of her contributions, however, he did not like; and one article that he had asked her to write—a review of Forster's Life of Landor—he did not publish. Dickens admired Forster's book; Mrs. Linton thought it "a cold and carping and unsympathetic biography, which I for one did my best to show in its true colours" (My Literary Life, p. 57).

The A.Y.R. article "Worse Witches Than Macbeth's", March 15 1862, based on Mrs. Linton's Witch Stories, recommended that no reader interested in witchcraft "should be without Mrs. Linton's admirable book".

Harper's reprinted fifteen of Mrs. Linton's H.W. contributions (the text of "Duelling in England" and "Duelling in France", somewhat shortened, rearranged as one article), none acknowledged to H.W., but "The Sixth Poor Traveller" credited to Dickens.

Author: Anne Lohrli; © University of Toronto Press, 1971.


Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

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