Charlotte Mary Yonge

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Charlotte Mary Yonge
Photo of Charlotte Mary Yonge.jpg
Charlotte Mary Yonge, aged 35
Born (1823-08-11)11 August 1823
Otterbourne, Hampshire, England
Died 24 May 1901(1901-05-24) (aged 77)
Otterbourne, Hampshire, England
Occupation Writer (novelist)
Nationality English
Period 19th century
Genre Children's literature

Charlotte Mary Yonge (11 August 1823 – 24 May 1901) was an English novelist.


Charlotte Mary Yonge was born in Otterbourne, Hampshire, England, on 11 August 1823 to William Yonge and Fanny Yonge, née Bargus.[1] She was educated at home by her father, studying Latin, Greek, French, Euclid and algebra.[2] Her father's lessons could be harsh:

He required a diligence and accuracy that were utterly alien to me. He thundered at me so that nobody could bear to hear it, and often reduced me to tears, but his approbation was so delightful that it was a delicious stimulus... I believe, in spite of all breezes over my innate slovenliness, it would have broken our hearts to leave off working together. And we went on till I was some years past twenty.[3]

Yonge's devotion to her father was lifelong and her relationship with him seems to have been for her the standard for all other relationships, including marriage.[4] His "approbation was throughout life my bliss; his anger my misery for the time."[5]

She was born into a religious family background, was devoted to the High Church, and much influenced by John Keble, Vicar of Hursley from 1835, a near neighbour and one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement. Yonge is herself sometimes referred to as "the novelist of the Oxford Movement",[6] as her novels frequently reflect the values and concerns of Anglo-Catholicism. She remained in Otterbourne all her life and for 71 years was a teacher in the village Sunday school.[7]

Charlotte Mary Yonge, ca. 1845.

In 1868 a new parish was formed to the south of Yonge's home village of Otterbourne; the parish was to contain the villages of Eastley and Barton. Yonge donated £500 towards the parish church and was asked to choose which of the two villages the parish should be named after. She chose Eastley, but decided that it should be spelt 'Eastleigh' as she perceived this as being more modern.[8]

Yonge died in her hometown of Otterbourne on 24 May 1901. Her obituary in The Times said:[9]

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.

Literary career

She began writing in 1848, and published during her long life about 160 works, chiefly novels.[10] Her first commercial success, The Heir of Redclyffe (1853), provided the funding to enable the schooner Southern Cross to be put into service on behalf of George Selwyn. Similar charitable works were done with the profits from later novels. Yonge was also a founder and editor for forty years of The Monthly Packet, a magazine (founded in 1851) with a varied readership, but targeted at British Anglican girls (in later years it was addressed to a somewhat wider readership).

Charlotte Mary Yonge later in life.

Among the best known of her works are The Heir of Redclyffe, Heartsease and The Daisy Chain. A Book of Golden Deeds is a collection of true stories of courage and self-sacrifice. She also wrote Cameos from English History, Life of John Coleridge Patteson: Missionary Bishop of the Melanesian Islands and Hannah More. Her History of Christian Names was described as "the first serious attempt at tackling the subject" and as the standard work on names in the preface to the first edition of Withycombe's The Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names (1944).

Her personal example and influence on her god-daughter, Alice Mary Coleridge, played a formative role in Coleridge's zeal for women's education and thus, indirectly, led to the foundation of Abbots Bromley School for Girls.

After her death, her friend, assistant and collaborator, Christabel Coleridge, published the biographical Charlotte Mary Yonge: her Life and Letters (1903).


Yonge's work was widely read and respected in the nineteenth century. Among her admirers were Lewis Carroll, George Eliot, William Ewart Gladstone, Charles Kingsley, Christina Rossetti, Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Anthony Trollope.[11] William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones read The Heir of Redclyffe aloud to each other while undergraduates at Oxford University and "took [the hero, Guy Morville's] medieval tastes and chivalric ideals as presiding elements in the formation of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood."[12] Yonge's work was compared favourably with that of Trollope, Jane Austen, Honoré de Balzac, Gustave Flaubert and Émile Zola.[12]

Sir John Arthur Ransome Marriott wrote of her:

Charlotte Yonge (1823-1902) was not only a prolific novelist, but a serious student of history, especially in its personal aspects. Having dealt in The Constable's Tower with Hubert de Burgh, with his famous defence of Dover Castle against Prince Louis of France (1213), and his still more famous victory at sea off Sandwich, and with Edward I as a crusader (The Prince and the Page), Miss Yonge drew on the Vie de Bertrand du Guesclin as well as on Froissart for her fascinating tale The Lances of Lynwood. With characteristic modesty she expressed the hope that her sketch might "serve as an inducement to some young readers to make acquaintance with the delectable old Canon (Froissart) for themselves ". The wise, of all ages, will fulfil her hope.[13]

So popular were her works that

A midshipman was able to supply from memory a missing page in his ship's copy of The Daisy Chain. An officer in the Guards, asked in a game of "Confessions" what his prime object in life was, answered that it was to make himself like Guy Morville, hero of The Heir of Redclyffe.[14]

C. S. Lewis thought very highly of Yonge, at one point bracketing her evocations of domestic life with those of Homer and Leo Tolstoy.[15]

Abraham Kuyper, who read The Heir of Redclyffe on the recommendation of his fiancé, Johanna Schaay, found it to be a very moving experience and wrote that the novel was "next to the Bible in its meaning for my life." [16]

According to critic Catherine Sandbach-Dahlström, Yonge's work has been "constantly be-deviled" by a "tendency to confuse the moral quality of [her] view of life with the quality of her literary expression".[17]

Yonge's work has been little studied, with the possible exception of The Heir of Redclyffe.[18]



  1. Hayter (1996), p. vii.
  2. Coleridge (1903), pp. 107–108.
  3. Coleridge (1903), p. 108
  4. Sturrock (1995), pp. 17–18
  5. Quoted in Sturrock (1995), p. 17.
  6. Dennis, Barbara (1992). Charlotte Yonge (1823-1901): Novelist of the Oxford Movement. Lewiston: E. Mellen Press.
  7. Cross, F.L., ed. (1957) The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. London: Oxford University Press, p. 1484.
  8. Lambert, Tim. "A Brief History of Eastleigh, Hampshire". Retrieved 7 September 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Charlotte Yonge: Obituary and funeral
  10. Cross (1957), p. 1484.
  11. Hayter (1996), p. 1.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Hayter (1996), p. 2
  13. Marriott, J.A.R. (1940). English History in English Fiction. London and Glasgow: Blackie & Son, p. 68.
  14. Hayter (1996), pp. 1–2.
  15. Lewis. C.S. (1949). "Membership". In: The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses. New York: Macmillan, p. 31.
  16. "Confidentially" in Abraham Kuyper: A Centennial Reader, ed. James D. Bratt (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), p. 51.
  17. Sandbach-Dahlström (1984), p. 3.
  18. Sandbach-Dahlström (1984), p. 8.


  • Coleridge, Christabel (1903). Charlotte Mary Yonge: Her Life and Letters. London: Macmillan and Company
  • Hayter, Alethea (1996). Charlotte Yonge. Plymouth: Northcote House.
  • Sandbach-Dahlström, Catherine (1984). Be Good Sweet Maid: Charlotte Yonge's Domestic Fiction. Stockholm, Sweden: Almquist and Wiksell International ISBN 91-22-00658-3
  • Sturrock, June (1995). "Heaven and Home": Charlotte M. Yonge's Domestic Fiction and the Victorian Debate Over Women. Carlton, Vict.: University of Victoria ISBN 0-920604-84-6

Further reading

  • Baker, Ernest A. (1957). The History of the English Novel, Vol. VIII. New York: Barnes & Noble.
  • Battiscombe, Georgina (1943). Charlotte M. Yonge: The History of an Uneventful Life. London: Constable and Co.
  • Battiscombe, G. & Laski, M., eds. (1965). A Chaplet for Charlotte Yonge: papers by Georgina Battiscombe, Katharine Briggs, Lettice Cooper, Alice Fairfax-Lucy, Annis Gillie, Ruth Harris, Elizabeth Jenkins, Margaret Kennedy, Marghanita Laski, Violet Powell, Catherine Storr, Kathleen Tillotson, Rachel Townsend, together with genealogical tables & bibliography, also some little-known pieces by Charlotte Yonge "Last heartsease leaves, authorship, etc."; edited for the Charlotte Yonge Society by Georgina Battiscombe and Marghanita Laski. London: Cresset Press
  • Budge, Gavin (2003). "Realism and Typology in Charlotte M. Yonge’s The Heir of Redclyffe," Victorian Literature and Culture, Vol. XXXI, pp. 193–223.
  • Cooper, Edward H. (1901). "Charlotte Mary Yonge," The Fortnightly Review, Vol. LXXV, pp. 852–858.
  • Cruse, Amy (1935). The Victorians and their Reading. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.
  • Dennis, Barbara (1988). Introduction to The Daisy Chain. London: Virago.
  • Dennis, Barbara (1997). Introduction to The Heir of Redclyffe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Jay, Elisabeth (2004). "Yonge, Charlotte Mary." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Retrieved on 8 May 2009.
  • Johnson, R. Brimley (1918). The Women Novelists. London: W. Collins Sons & Co.
  • Leavis, Q.D. (1989). "Charlotte Yonge and 'Christian Discrimination'." In: G. Singh, ed. Collected Essays, Vol. III. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Mare, Margaret (1949). Victorian Best-seller: The World of Charlotte M. Yonge. London: George G. Harrap.
  • Romanes, Ethel (1908). Charlotte Mary Yonge: An Appreciation. London: A.R. Mowbray.
  • Salmon, Edward G (1886). "What Girls Read," The National Review, Vol. XX, pp. 515–529.
  • Sichel, Edith (1917). "Charlotte Yonge as a Chronicler." In: New and Old. London: Constable & Company, pp. 141–150.
  • Walton, Susan (2010). Imagining Soldiers and Fathers in the Mid-Victorian Era: Charlotte Yonge's Models of Manliness. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7546-6959-3
  • Wells-Cole, Catherine (2000). "Angry Yonge Men: Anger and Masculinity in the Novels of Charlotte M. Yonge." In: Masculinity and Spirituality in Victorian Culture. Ed. by Andrew Bradstock, Sean Gill, Anne Hogan and Sue Morgan. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

External links