Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Ellen Glasgow was born in Richmond, Virginia, on April 22, 1873, to Anne Jane Glasgow and Francis Thomas Glasgow, manager of Tredegar Iron Works. Ellen was the eighth of ten children. During her childhood, she was particularly sensitive to the nervousness and depression from which her gentle, aristocratic mother suffered, undoubtedly the result of Anne Glasgow’s almost incessant childbearing. This experience was to motivate Ellen’s later work for women’s rights and was clearly reflected in her fiction.
Ironically, in temperament, Glasgow was more like her father than her mother. Even though she rejected her Calvinistic faith, she retained a strong ethical sense, which is evident throughout her works. Furthermore, her own fierce independence of thought and rebelliousness of spirit were the very qualities which had motivated her Presbyterian ancestors in their defiance of monarchs.
In lieu of formal instruction, Glasgow was educated by relatives and, perhaps even more important, was allowed to choose books at will from her father’s extensive library. When she was still a child, she began to write. Although later she accused her family of lacking sympathy for her ambitions, Glasgow was probably exaggerating their unkindness. Always delicate, always aware of her mother’s unhappiness, Glasgow seemed destined to develop a sense of...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Whether in serious works or comic, satirical novels, Glasgow’s primary goal is to show life as it is. Like the southern realists who followed her, Glasgow invents plots full of missed chances and chance decisions that lead to alienation and tragedy. Her characters often destroy themselves by deluding themselves; by the time they attain self-knowledge, it is often too late to salvage their lives. Furthermore, Glasgow presents the societies in which her characters live as repressive and hypocritical, particularly in their treatment of women, whom they pretend to revere but actually enslave.
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Biography (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
Ellen Anderson Gholson Glasgow’s father was a strict Scotch Presbyterian; her mother was a member of an established Tidewater family. Glasgow was too nervous to attend school, so she was educated at home. In late adolescence, her attention was directed to the work of writers such as Charles Darwin and Friedrich Nietzsche, and she read extensively in philosophy, political economy, and literature. She began to go deaf at the age of sixteen, and throughout her life she felt handicapped in social situations. In 1918, after a quarrel with her fiancé, Glasgow attempted suicide. She was engaged twice, but she never married. Although she always regarded Richmond, Virginia, as her home, Glasgow traveled widely. She received honorary doctorates from the University of North Carolina (1937), the University of Richmond (1938), Duke University (1938), and the College of William and Mary (1939). She was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1932, and to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1938. Glascow died in Richmond, Virginia, on November 21, 1945.
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Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Born in Richmond, Virginia, in 1873, Ellen Glasgow came from a combination of stern Scotch-Irish pioneers on her father’s side and Tidewater, Virginia, aristocratic stock on her mother’s side. Francis Glasgow was an ironworks executive, an occupation well suited to his Puritan temperament and character. Ellen Glasgow had little positive to say about her father. Her mother was a cultivated, gracious, and humane woman. These divergent influences provided the crucible from which Glasgow’s writings were to emerge.
The next to the youngest in a family of four sons and six daughters, Glasgow experienced a more or less lonely childhood, with Rebe, her younger sister, and Mammy Lizzie Jones, her black nurse, providing her only companionship. Because of fragile health and a nervous temperament that precluded adjustment to formal schooling, her isolation was increased, and most of her education came from her father’s extensive library. As a child, Glasgow admired the novels of Charles Dickens, Henry Fielding, and Jane Austen. From Dickens, she gained reinforcement for her already strong aversion to cruelty, and from the latter two, she learned that only honest writing can endure. “Lesser” novelists, she felt, lacked “the creative passion and the courage to offend, which is the essential note of great fiction.”
Glasgow grew up in that period following the American Civil War when, as she described it, the “prosperous and...
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
By birth and tradition Ellen Anderson Gholson Glasgow (GLAS-goh) was as deeply involved as John Esten Cooke or Thomas Nelson Page in the historical situation and society of her region. From the beginning, however, her path cut straight across the elegiac romanticism of the plantation school of fiction, a literature that came into being partly to redeem the pride of a defeated people. As an apprentice novelist, Ellen Glasgow was forced to look elsewhere for the lessons of experience.
Ellen Glasgow grew up in a society that had emerged from the Civil War with its principles, if not its property, almost intact. Her mother came from an aristocratic family of the Tidewater; her father, descended from Scots-Irish pioneers who had settled west of the Blue Ridge, was the manager of an ironworks that had manufactured cannon for the Confederacy. Deemed too delicate for formal education, Glasgow found her real teachers—writers and thinkers such as John Stuart Mill, David Hume, Voltaire, Plato, Charles Darwin, and Adam Smith—in the books in her father’s library; no university in the South could have provided a more liberal education at the time. Although the University of Virginia did not admit women, she read for, and passed, the honors examination in political economy. These studies prepared her for lifelong revolt against a code of evasive idealism whose...
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Ellen Glasgow was born in 1873 to a well-established Richmond, Virginia, family. A frail child, Glasgow led a secluded life and even was primarily educated at home. At the age of 16, she began to lose her hearing. This debility only increased her desire for solitude.
Glasgow began writing at a young age. By 1890, she had completed some 400 pages of a novel, Sharp Realities, but she destroyed it the following year after an unfavorable meeting with a publisher’s agent in New York. Despite this failure, she began writing The Descendant that same year. The writing of fiction, however, was not deemed an appropriate behavior for a young southern woman. The novel was published in 1897, under the author ‘‘Anonymous.’’ The Descendant drew immediate critical attention and was widely perceived to be work of the popular author Harold Frederick; Glasgow took being mistaken for a male writer as a compliment. Although most of her family and friends did not read Glasgow’s first published work, it was personally relevant for Glasgow, as she believed it to contain ‘‘the germ’’ of all her future writings.
Because of her loss of hearing and frailty, and the depression brought on by her mother’s death in 1893, Glasgow primarily resided in the family home in Richmond. She never married, but her travels to New York, the East Coast, and Europe, through which she met fellow writers, made her feel less isolated as she immersed...
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