Mrs. Humphry Ward: Eminent Victorian, Pre-Eminent Edwardian

Mrs. Humphry Ward: Eminent Victorian, Pre-Eminent Edwardian

Mrs. Humphry Ward: Eminent Victorian, Pre-Eminent Edwardian

Mrs. Humphry Ward: Eminent Victorian, Pre-Eminent Edwardian

Synopsis

Victorian novelist Mary Ward, best known to her contemporaries as Mrs. Humphry Ward, was one of the most successful and complex women of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Born into the powerful but patriarchal dynasty of Thomas Arnold of Rugby, she lived at the center of an intellectual and cultural circle peopled by such eminent figures as Mark Pattison, Thomas Huxley, and Charles Darwin. Her novel Robert Elsmere (1888), the first in a series of bestsellers, earned her both unprecedented sums of money and the critical respect of such writers as Henry James. She helped found Somerville College, Oxford, the University's first institution of higher education of women, and helped create a number of play centers for the children of London's working poor. And as the first woman reporter to enter the trenches in 1916, she wrote articles that were instrumental in bringing America into the war. In Mrs. Humphry Ward, John Sutherland explores a goldmine of materials never before available to recapture a fascinating life, one in which extraordinary achievements were often overshadowed by private misfortune. Sutherland describes how Ward's parents' marriage was shattered by her father's religious peregrinations (an Anglican, he converted to Roman Catholicism, then returned to the Church of England, then became a Catholic again), how her own remarkable success placed considerable stress on her marriage, and how all her resources (both financial and emotional) went to support a renegade, spendthrift, and disappointing son. And he also sheds light on one of the great paradoxes of this accomplished woman's life--that she led the fight to block woman's suffrage. Throughout, Sutherland writes movingly of the private life of a remarkable public figure. A fascinating study of how much a woman could and could not do in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, this engaging biography illuminates the intellectual climate of the late 19th century.

Excerpt

Humphry Ward has a walk-on part in literary history as owner of the name that his wife, rather quaintly, took as her own. Even during his life gleeful jokes about his nonentity were current. (The best known goes roughly thus: an old friend meets Humphry in the street after many years in darkest Africa: 'You must come and dine with me--and do bring Mrs hw, if there is a Mrs HW') Humphry is never given credit as the formative influence on his wife's intellect, which in fact he was, particularly during the early years of their marriage when she was still a girl-wife. Had Mary Arnold married one of the other eligible young dons in her circle--say Mandell Creighton or John Wordsworth--her later development would have been quite other, in tune with their very different ideals and ambitions. So too had she remained locked (like Meta Bradley) in Pattison's paralysing orbit. Mary Arnold was by most standards a 'catch'. She had an imposing pedigree, a fine mind, an exciting personality, and physical attraction (only the dowry was missing). There is no question but that she chose Humphry; he was not a suitor of last resort. What was it that made this young man appeal to her more than others?

Thomas Humphry Ward, usually called Humphry or sometimes T. Humphry Ward, was born in Hull in 1845. the Wards' background was in shipbuilding, before the steam revolution industrialized it. the family had money but was not ostentatiously wealthy. Humphry's father, Henry Ward, was a clergyman who had taken orders late in life at 30, after some years devoted to the life of a landed gentleman of leisure. (Shooting was to be Humphry's favourite sport.) Henry married Jane Sandwith, the daughter of Humphry Sandwith, a distinguished army physician who had worked in Hull in the 1840s. During Humphry's childhood his father had taken over a somewhat uncongenial working-class parish, St Barnabas, in King's Square, a slum area of London by Goswell Road. a stout, hard-drinking, convivial, rather stupid man, the Revd Ward was a parson of the old school, redeemed, as his brilliant young curate J. R. Green thought, by a good heart and a saintly wife, who had brought money and a Wesleyan high-mindedness to their marriage. Henry's main recorded vice was an occasionally reckless speculation in business. But the Wards were well-off and survived Henry's financial plunges and the expense of a family the size of a Scottish clan. There were seventeen children five of whom died in childhood before Mrs Ward herself died aged only 42. the children . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.