Margaret (Oliphant Wilson) Oliphant Criticism - Essay

Valentine Cunningham (essay date 1975)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Mrs. Oliphant and the Tradition," in Everywhere Spoken Against: Dissent in the Victorian Novel, Clarendon Press, 1975, pp. 231-48.

[In the following essay, Cunningham surveys Oliphant's treatment of Scottish and English dissent. Although the critic finds Oliphant better able to present the situation in her homeland than in England, she argues that, overall, Oliphant 's work suffers from a lack of "originality and imaginative engagement," and calls her fiction "simplified" and "trivial."]

Are you, then, so eager to return to Scott,
who never seems to have suffered from writer's cramp?
George Moore to...

(The entire section is 7288 words.)

R. C. Terry (essay date 1983)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Queen of Popular Fiction: Mrs. Oliphant and the Chronicles of Carlingford," in Victorian Popular Fiction, 1860-80, Macmillan Press, 1983, pp. 68-101.

[In the following overview of the Chronicles of Carlingford, Terry discusses Oliphant as a "striking example" of the Victorian popular novelistbased on her talent and enormous outputand asserts that the Carlingford novels comprise her best work, without which readers would have an incomplete record of mid-Victorian fiction.]

I might have done better work. . . . Who can tell? I did with much labour what I thought the best, and there is only a might...

(The entire section is 13896 words.)

Jennifer Uglow (essay date 1984)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Introduction to Hester: A Story of Contemporary Life by Mrs. Oliphant, Virago, 1984, pp. ix-xxi.

[In the following introduction to Hester (1883), Uglow discusses the novel's themes of loneliness, employment, finances, and male-female relationships, and how these motifs reflect the realities of Oliphant's own life and the values of the Victorian era.]

Hester is a witty, ironic, forceful tale of women who run their lives either by choice or by necessity without the support of men—fatherless girls, old maids, widows, domineering sisters. But being alone, as its author knew, is not the same as being independent, and all the women in...

(The entire section is 4261 words.)

Elisabeth Jay (essay date 1990)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Introduction to The Autobiography of Margaret Oliphant: The Complete Text, edited and introduced by Elisabeth Jay, Oxford University Press, 1990, pp. vii-xvii.

[In the following introduction to a new edition of Oliphant's Autobiography (based on the original manuscript), Jay suggests that this new work allows modern readers the chance to understand the intense relationship Oliphant felt between the act of writing and the personal and financial needs that inspired it.]

Margaret Oliphant Wilson Oliphant, whose curious name derived from marrying a cousin on her mother's side of the family, was born on 4 April 1828 in Wallyford, Midlothian, and died in...

(The entire section is 4156 words.)

Joseph H. O'Mealy (essay date 1992)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Mrs. Oliphant, Miss Marjoribanks, and the Victorian Canon," in The Victorian Newsletter, No. 82, Fall, 1992, pp. 44-49.

[In the essay that follows, O'Mealy argues in favor of placing Oliphant within the Victorian literary canon. As evidence, the critic focuses on the novel Miss Marjoribanks (1866), claiming that "its ambivalent ironies, beautifully controlled and surprisingly directed, demonstrate a high degree of literary sophistication."]

John Sutherland's magisterial Companion to Victorian Fiction (which synopsizes 554 novels and gives brief notes on 878 novelists) warns against accepting the "Lilliputian dimensions" (1) of our current...

(The entire section is 5732 words.)

Margarete Rubik (essay date 1994)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Marriage," in The Novels of Mrs. Oliphant: A Subversive View of Traditional Themes, Peter Lang Publishing, 1994, pp. 169-95.

[In the following essay, Rubik discusses Oliphant's treatment of marriage in her novels, finding her skeptical of marital happiness and often presenting an unromantic and unsentimental view of married life.]

1) Oliphant's Fundamental Attitude

The traditional happy ending to the Victorian novel consists of the lovers' marriage, after which the course of their lives no longer needs to be related since, it is at least implied, they live happy ever after. Oliphant, who, as we have seen, appreciated the advantages of...

(The entire section is 9845 words.)

Elisabeth Jay (essay date 1995)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Woman and Her Art: An Assessment," in Mrs. Oliphant: 'A Fiction to Herself; A Literary Life, Clarendon Press, 1995, pp. 289-307.

[In the essay below, Jay, while presenting the history of Oliphant's literary reputation, outlines and comments on her various writing skills.]

I have so far discussed the particularities of Mrs Oliphant's life and work, rather in the manner she herself suggested when sketching the outlines of one of her own female characters:

Mrs Everard also was a widow. This fact acts upon the character like other great facts in life. It makes many and important modifications in the aspect of affairs. Life...

(The entire section is 10779 words.)

Linda Peterson (essay date 1995)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Female Bildungsroman: Tradition and Revision in Oliphant's Fiction," in Margaret Oliphant: Critical Essays on a Gentle Subversive, edited by D. J. Trela, Associated University Presses, 1995, pp. 66-89.

[In the following essay, Peterson examines Oliphant's experimentation with the form and content of the Victorian bildungsroman, focusing in particular on the Carlingford novels (1861-76), on Hester (1883), and on Kirsteen (1890).]

Modern critical discussions of Victorian bildungsroman distinguish sharply between male and female versions of the form. The male version, so standard distinctions suggest, uses a vocational...

(The entire section is 9295 words.)

Merryn Williams (essay date 1995)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Feminist or Antifeminist? Oliphant and the Woman Question," in Margaret Oliphant: Critical Essays on a Gentle Subversive, edited by D. J. Trela, Associated University Presses, 1995, pp. 165-79.

[In the essay below, Williams explores Oliphant's views on the women's movement of the mid-1860s, finding the author "a complex figure, typecast as antifeminist, yet concerned throughout her life with the problems of women."]

On 16 August 1866 Margaret Oliphant wrote to her publisher John Blackwood:

I send you a little paper I have just finished about Stuart Mill and his mad notion of the franchise for women. . . . Probably you will...

(The entire section is 6320 words.)