“The Caudine Forks” and the Optics of Authorship
  • Randall Craig


Caroline Norton was one of the most “visible” women of her day. She was a cynosure of public attention for nearly half a century following her formal introduction to fashionable society during the London season of 1826. Recognition and influence might never have been more than the result of physical beauty nor have extended beyond Almack’s and its immediate environs had she not also been a prolific author of the sentimental verse and melodramatic tales popular with fashionable readers. Her initial literary impact, in turn, might never have been felt beyond the world of ton and its aspirants had she not, in 1831, attracted the attention of a man soon to become prime minister. Her relationship with Lord Melbourne led to a sensational scandal after which she would never be in the position to benefit from the wisdom of her own aperçu: “Obscurity is a thicker shield than virtue.”3 Even though her husband’s charge of adultery was not proven, Norton was left with a maculate reputation in a marital no-woman’s-land. In a relatively short period and well before the age of 30, her public persona had changed dramatically: from one of the beautiful Sheridan sisters, whose literary precocity established her as a worthy successor to her grandfather, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, to a scandalous woman separated from her husband and excluded from the drawing rooms of polite society.


Woman Writer Cerebral Organ Physical Beauty Literary Attention Fashionable Society 
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© Randall Craig 2009

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  • Randall Craig

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