Who was Barbara Cartland, and what did she contribute to literature?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Barbara Cartland is a writer.  She began writing in 1922.  From that point, Cartland became one of the most prodigious writers in history.  She wrote over 700 books.  For a period in her life, Cartland averaged writing 23 novels a year. Her primary contribution to literature is the significant amount of work she produced.  Cartland established a standard of writing that is almost inconceivable to think can be produced again.

Cartland made her living writing Romance novels.  Her novels were mostly set in the 19th Century.  Her first novels were considered "sensational" and even featured public rebuke from political leaders such as Lord Chamberlain's banning of Blood Money in 1926.  While England endured much in way of the rise of European fascism, entry into World War II, Churchill's leadership, and post- World War II challenges, Cartland continued to write.  Her output is what distinguishes her.  To a great extent, this becomes another one of her contributions. Cartland was "critic- proof."  While she was never regarded as the next coming of the Bronte Sisters of Jane Austen, Cartland continued to write because she believed she had something to say through her work.  Given how so many purchased her works and continued to do so, she might have been correct in her assertion.  Though considered sensationalist in her initial foray, Cartland's works were overall quite tame in terms of content, placing virginal heroes in historical contexts where love and duty were always challenged.  Upon selling over a billion books, Vogue magazine called Cartland the "the true Queen of Romance." Such a reality becomes Cartland's fundamental contribution to literature.

Finally, I think that Cartland's zeal for writing did not cross over into the realm of financial maintenance.  The numbers are staggering in terms of over a billion books purchased, over 700 novels written, and over 150 manuscripts still unpublished. However, Dame Barbara Cartland died without much money to her name.  Once, she was asked about her financial affairs and she responded, "'I have no idea what I make. My two sons deal with it all. Occasionally I ask, 'Are we in debt?' We always are."  Barbara Cartland represented a sad legacy of writers who were able to produce literature, but have little in way of the ability to manage it.  The vision of Cartland's writing of gallant men, women immersed in romances, and distant lands collides with her reality of crumbling and dilapidated residences and threadbare carpets.  Sadly enough, this legacy is another contribution she made to literature, a reminder that writers must not only be able to produce works, but recognize the skills needed to take care of themselves and others in the process of doing so.

laurto | Student

Barbara Cartland was an English Novelist who was best known for her numerous romantic novels. She wrote over 720 novels. She holds a world record in the Guinness World Records book for the most novels published in a single year. She is considered "the true Queen of Romance" because of her work in the Romance genre.