Women in History of
|Oliphant, Margaret [nee Wilson] (1828-1897).
Novelist. Margaret Wilson was born at Wallyford near Edinburgh, on 4 April 1828. She grew
up in Glasgow and Liverpool, and in 1849 published her first novel, Passages in the Life
of Mrs. Margaret Maitland. The work, with its sharp delineation of Scottish character and
setting, proved extremely popular and went through three successive editions. Margaret
Wilson followed this with Caleb Field (1851) and Merkland (1851). In 1853 her novel Katie
Stewart was serialized in Blackwood's Magazine, beginning a professional and personal
association with the Blackwood firm and family that was to last until her death in 1897.
In 1852 Margaret Wilson moved to London, where she married
her cousin, artist Francis William Oliphant. Her work continued unabated, and she produced
several novels for serialization in Blackwood's Magazine, including A Quiet Heart (1854),
Zaidee (1856) and The Athelings (1857). She was soon earning a steady income from her
work, which she was to need after her husband died in 1857, leaving her in debt and with
three children to provide for. Between 1861 and 1878 she embarked on an ambitious series
of novels on English provincial life, which was to include some of her most accomplished
work. The seven novel series, entitled 'The Chronicles of Carlingford', was closely
Modeled on Anthony Trollope's Barsetshire novels, and bore similarities in concerns and
themes to George Eliot's works. The series included Salem Chapel (1863), The Rector and
The Doctor's Family (1863), The Perpetual Curate (1864), and her best known work, Miss
Marjoribanks (1866). The final novel in the series, Phoebe Junior: A Last Chronicle of
Carlingford, was published in 1876.
In 1864, her daughter died, and soon after Margaret Oliphant took
charge of three of her widowed brother's four children. This, plus a strain of supporting
her two remaining children, took its toll on her writing. After1866 her work never
achieved the same critical success of her earlier efforts. By the time of her death,
Margaret Oliphant had produced over 100 novels, almost 30 works of non-fiction and over
articles for Blackwood's Magazine.
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