“Such Is the Tale They Tell!”: The Narratives of Caroline Norton
  • Randall Craig


As the author of popular literature and polemical pamphlets, Norton encountered various “optical” obstacles: for women, a visible presence in the competitive worlds of commercial publication or political disputation necessarily entailed criticism and controversy. The gendered values of modesty, reticence, and privacy conflicted with the self-advertisement associated with publication, a dilemma only partially mitigated by anonymous or pseudonymous authorship. To be a woman and a writer was to be doubly but dichotomously visible. Literary success might be pejoratively attributed to feminine beauty or wiles, on the one hand, or taken as unflattering evidence of a masculine nature, on the other. In either case, the woman writer was seen as a discredit to her sex, and the writings themselves were often not seen at all.


Woman Writer Commercial Publication Political Disputation Sonal Visibility Great Ship 
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  1. 3.
    John Fowles, The French Lieutenant’s Woman (New York: New American Library, 1969), 95.Google Scholar
  2. 8.
    Yopie Prins, “Personifying the Poetess: Caroline Norton, ‘The Picture of Sappho,’” in Women’s Poetry, Late Romantic to Late Victorian: Gender and Genre, 1830–1900, ed. Isobel Armstrong and Virginia Blain (New York: St. Martin’s, 1999), 61.Google Scholar

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© Randall Craig 2009

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  • Randall Craig

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