Biography as Myth-Making: Obfuscation and Invention in Victorian and Post-Victorian Literary Biography

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The Victorian period saw the publication of numerous biographies of major writers produced by their surviving spouses, family members, or close friends. The purpose of those biographies was not only to provide a comprehensive account of their subject’s life and work, but also to establish an image of them for posterity - which often involved the need to edit, hide, or otherwise manipulate evidence of aspects of their life which would have been considered unacceptable or embarrassing. In doing so, Victorian literary biographers adopted a number of narrative techniques typical of the fiction of the day, moving from straightforward realistic modes of story-telling to various forms of quasi-Modernist manipulation of the narrative voice. The present chapter traces these developments in the biographies of Charlotte Brontë (by Elizabeth Gaskell), Dickens (by John Forster), George Eliot (by J.W. Cross), and Hardy (nominally by Florence Emily Hardy, but in reality largely by Hardy himself).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA Companion to Literary Biography
EditorsRichard Bradford
Place of PublicationChichester
PublisherWiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781118896433
ISBN (Print)9781118896297
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 17 Oct 2018

Publication series

NameBlackwell Companions to Literature and Culture


  • biography
  • Victorian
  • manipulation
  • narrative
  • Charlotte Bronte
  • Dickens
  • George Eliot
  • hardy


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