women life lady
NORTON, HON. MRS CAROLINE ELIZABETH (1808-1877), afterwards Lady Stirling-Maxwell, ranks high among the women of letters of the 19th century. She was born in 1808. One of the three beautiful granddaughters of Sheridan, daughters of his son Thomas, "three Graces" of London society in the reign of George IV., she showed literary ambition and faculty before she was out of her teens. Her first publication, made at the age of seventeen, was a merry satire, The. Dandies' Rout, illustrated by herself, full of girlish high spirits and wit. The preference shown for mournful and tender themes in her subsequent writings is in strange contrast with this opening jeu d'esprit. Her first essay in serious verse was made in 1829 with The Sorrows of Rosalie, the next in 1831 with The Undying One, a version of the legend of the Wandering Jew. Fluent melody of versification, richness and felicity of language, great tenderness of sentiment, and rhetorical luxuriance of illustration showed that she had inherited no small portion of her grandfather's genius, and brought her at once into fame. Her portrait appeared in Fraser's Magazine in 1831 as that of " the leader of the female band." Curiously enough, the author of the accompanying notice describes her as "happy in all the appliances of wealth and fame," and asks, " Of a life like hers what can be told ?" at the very time when, according to her own subsequent account, she was "learning the law respecting women, piecemeal, by suffering from every one of its defects of protection." She had made an unfortunate marriage in 1827 with the Hon. George Norton, brother of Lord Grantley ; then, after three years of protests on her part and good promises on his, she had taken the decisive step of leaving his house for her sister's, had " condoned " on further good promises, and had returned, to find matters worse. The husband's unmanly persecutions culminated in 1836 in an action brought against Lord Melbourne for seduction of his wife, which the jury decided against Mr Norton's claims without leaving the box. Mrs Norton made her own unhappy experience a plea for addressing to the queen in 1855 an eloquent letter on the law concerning divorce, and her writings had considerable influence in ripening opinion for recent changes in the legal status of married women. During the reign of William IV., Mrs Norton was at the height of her literary reputation, contributing many criticisms, sketches, tales, and songs to various periodicals and annuals, and using pencil as well as pen. She was not a mere writer of elegant trifles ; she was one of the priestesses of the " reforming " spirit ; she appeared at her best in such works as A Voice from the Factories (1836), a most eloquent and rousing condemnation of child labour. In a similar vein of warm sympathy with the unfortunate, she addressed a poem in 1845 to the prince of Wales, exhorting this Child of the Islands to use his power for social reforms. Aunt Carry's Ballads, dedicated to her nephews and nieces, are written with playful tenderness and grace of the most charming kind. Later in life she produced three novels, Stuart of Dunleath (1851), Lost and Saved (1863), and Old Sir Douglas (1868). All three are written with great power and freshness of style, enthusiastic facility in the exposure of social impostures and in the exhibition of ideals of generous conduct. Her heroines are too painfully tried by calamitous misunderstandings and injuries, especially Eleanor Raymond, the heroine of the first, whose long series of misfortunes finds hardly any relief from childhood till death. This may have been due to the writer's moral purpose, originating in her own bitter experience, of championing the wrongs of her sex ; but it is a singular fact, pointing to temperament as the cause, that Johnson made the same complaint about the novel of her great-grandmother, Frances Sheridan. Mrs Norton's last poem was the Lady of La Garaye (1861), her last publication the half humorous, half heroic story of The Rose of Jericho in 1870. She died on the 14th of June 1877. Mr Norton died in 1875 ; and Mrs. Norton in the last year of her life was married to Sir W. Stirling-Maxwell.