Who was Barbara Cartland and what is her contribution to literature?

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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are staggering in terms of over a billion books purchased, over 700 novels written, and over 150 manuscripts still unpublished.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.

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Who was Barbara Cartland?

Barbara Mary Hamilton Cartland was born in 1901 and died in 2000. She was an English writer known for her historical romance novels, but she began her career as a society column reporter--also known as a gossip columnist.

Over the course of her career, 

Barbara Cartland wrote an incredible 723 books, which were translated into 38 languages, making her the most prolific author of the 20th Century.

She still holds the record in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most novels published in a year--in 1983 she published 23 novels.

Cartland's primary goal in writing was to bring joy to her readers, who were primarily women. She wrote 19th-century romances and she was quite good at it. Her loyal readership eagerly bought everything she ever published, and they number in the billions. At the beginning of her career, her stories were rather salacious and her characters were rather racy. As she matured and grew more conservative in her own life, however, her novels reflected that change. That did not seem to have an impact on her success; in fact, her later novels were even more popular than her earlier works.

Vogue magazine has called Cartland the "true Queen of Romance." Cartland was a bit of a fashionista, and her signature look included pink dresses, plumed hats, and platinum blond (and perfectly coiffed) hair. She was a very public and outspoken self-proclaimed love and relationship expert, though her own relationships were often complicated, confusing, and unconventional.

Cartland was also connected to British royalty. She was given the title "Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire" in 1991 for her social, political and of course writing contributions to her country. She had a long-term relationship with Prince Charles's great-uncle, and she was Princess Diana's step-grandmother. She spent nine years as an elected official and championed for such causes as increased wages for midwives and government-sanctioned education for the children of gypsies.

Cartland was intrigued by aviation and her interest prompted several developments in the field. She divorced her first husband and then married his first cousin who bore the same last name; her daughter from her first marriage and her two sons from the second marriage all have the same last name. Cartland was quite a character in the social and literary world, and she had a significant impact in both of those spheres of influence.

At the time of her death, Cartland left behind 160 unpublished manuscripts which are now being published by her family, one book per month.

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