Wood, Mrs Henry
stories name glove
WOOD, MRS HENRY (1814-1887), novelist, was born on the 17th January 1814. Her maiden name was Ellen Price ; her father was a glove manufacturer in Worcester - the original of the cathedral city which, with its church dignitaries and schools, is the scene of so many of her tales. From certain vague memoirs published by her son in the Argosy' (of which her novels were the mainstay for the last twenty years of her life) it appears that the industrial distress described in Mildred Arkell is a reminiscence of the collapse of the glove trade in Worcester, consequent on Huskisson's tariff reforms in 1823, from which her father suffered along with other English glove manufacturers. She married young, it is said, and after her marriage lived for the most part in France, her husband being " at the head of a large shipping and banking firm abroad." She first came before the public in her own name as the author of a temperance tale (Danesbury House), which had gained the prize of £100 offered by the Scottish Temperance League. This was in 1860; but it appears from the memoirs already referred to that " for many years " before this she had been a regular contributor of stories anonymously, month after month, to Mr Harrison Ainsworth's magazines, Bentley's Miscellany, and Colburn's New Monthly. Danesbury house was very favourably reviewed, her genuine gifts as a story-teller making themselves apparent in spite of the didactic purpose of the tale ; but Mrs Wood's first great success was made in the following year with East Lynne, one of the most popular novels of the century. A long review in the Times, in which a place was claimed for her in the foremost rank of novelists, was the loudest note in a general chorus of praise, and fairly established her position. The praise of the critics continued throughout the next half-dozen of her novels, which followed one another with great rapidity: The Channinys and Mrs Hallibu•ton's Troubles, in 1862 ; Verner's Pride and The Shadow of Ashlydyat, in 1863 ; Lord Oaleburn's Daughters, Oswald Cray, and Trevlyn hold, in 1864. These works were held to confirm the promise of East Lynne, and The Shadow of Ashlyclyat was pronounced to be (as it is still generally considered) the best of them all. Complaints of sameness, - almost inevitable, considering the rate of production, - of connnonplaceness of sentiment and material, and of a certain narrowness and insufficiency in her conceptions of poetical justice first began to be heard in connexion with Mildred Arkell (1865), and became louder as the fertile novelist continued to pour forth her stories with inexhaustible fluency. She became owner of the Argosy in 1867, and her stories quickly raised it to an enormous circulation. She had a certain triumph over her critics with the Johnny Ludlow tales, an imitation of Miss Mitford's Tales of Our Village. Mrs Wood's name was not put to them as they appeared in the Argosy, and when the first series was collected and published separately in 1874 they excited among reviewers an approach to the enthusiasm with which her first efforts had been welcomed. Undoubtedly Mrs Wood possessed many of the qualities of a first-rate story-teller, - great simplicity of style, unfailing fluency, a lively interest in prominent traits of character, abundant circumstantiality, skill in exciting curiosity and keeping up suspense, and withal a wonderful clearness of method. Amidst her crowd of characters and incidents you are never puzzled or perplexed, and she very rarely lapses into tediousness. If ever she is tedious, it is from repeating herself. Her " criticism of life" is not very broad or very profound, though it is generally for moral edification ; she is simply an excellent story-teller out of the ordinary materials of the craft. In private life Mrs Wood seems to have been a most amiable person ; her son gives a very lovable picture of her. Her death took place on 10th February 1887, at the age of seventy-three. She was active in her work till the very last, and left several completed stories, short and long, ready for publication.