Charlotte M. Yonge

Charlotte M. Yonge

Charlotte M. Yonge was one of the most prolific—and in her day, successful—writers of the Victorian era. In her lifetime she published well over 100 books in several genres: history, biography, adult fiction, and children's historical fiction. Her first adult novel, The Heir of Redclyffe, which appeared in 1853, was an enormous success. In fact, it was as famous in its time as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, which had been published six years earlier. The first of her historical novels for children was The Little Duke, the story of the childhood of Richard, Duke of Normandy, the great-grandfather of William the Conqueror, which was published in 1854, and which today is perhaps the best-known of her children's books. Another favorite, The Dove in the Eagle's Nest, was published in 1866.

Charlotte Yonge was born in 1823 in the village of Otterborne, England, the oldest child of William Yonge, a retired Army officer turned country squire, and his wife, Frances. Otterborne was her home for her entire life. Taught at home by her father, early in life she developed a love of history and literature. Her favorite author was Sir Walter Scott, considered by many to be the father of the historical novel.

Her career as a teacher began at the age of seven in the Sunday School of her church, and continued far into her adult life. Her writing career was well on its way in her teens, and by her early twenties her stories were appearing in magazines for young people. Her first book, Le Chateau de Melville, written in French, was published in 1838, when she was just fifteen years old. Her work as an editor spanned more than thirty years and included the editorship of The Monthly Packet, a magazine for girls that she founded in 1851.

Like many another literary and artistic women of her time, she never married, and pursued her writing career within a close circle of friends and family. Her father and her minister, John Keble, were her mentors and critics. Although she had no children of her own, she was intimate with those of her brother, and her teaching brought her into close contact with many many more.

Yonge is sometimes compared to boy's author G. A. Henty (especially since some of her books have been republished by a Henty publisher), but they were very different people, and lived very different lives. Yonge was single; Henty married and had a number of children. One spent her entire life in a tiny village; the other traveled widely. They had this in common, however: they both loved history, and they both loved to write stories about real people. Mr. Henty, dubbed "The Prince of Story-tellers," found success in a story model that always included a brave and resourceful boy-hero who wins out in the end-no matter the fate of the actual historical figures in the stories. Miss Yonge's main characters, on the other hand, were as likely to be young ladies as young men, and more often than not, her principal subjects in her historical novels were the historical figures themselves, rather than fictional ones. While she relates the historical events faithfully, she often details as well the moral and spiritual development of both her historical and fictional characters.

Readers new to Charlotte Yonge will quickly discover that she is unabashedly Christian. Her characters are often refined by fire: they suffer physically and mentally—often unjustly, sometimes simply because of an accident rather than anyone's malice—they learn to conquer weaknesses in temperament and the sin of pride, and they emerge from their time of testing better people, more humble, and more dependent on God than ever before. Many of the finest 19th century novels address issues of pride and weakness of temperament; many contain characters that must deal with physical or social handicaps; moral choices abound. But in none of these books is there a specifically Christian approach to either the problems or the solutions. The 19th century was a time of much upheaval spiritually, politically, and socially. Many sincere people, writers included, turned from orthodox Christianity and found an easier path in Unitarianism, Transcendentalism, Utilitarianism, and even Theosophy and spiritualism. As the leading thinkers turned from Christianity, so did many "ordinary" people. Thus, one could say that the sacrifice, the refining, the self-denial, and the faithfulness of many of Miss Yonge's characters went out of fashion—at least, they would serve as an unwelcome reminder of a way of life left behind.
It is Charlotte Yonge's Christian worldview, combined with her fine writing and great ability to tell a good story, that gives her writing such force. And it is just such writing as she offers that we and our children need today.

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7 Items found
Book of Golden Deeds
by Charlotte M. Yonge
from Living Book Press
for 4th-8th grade
in Historical Fiction (Location: FIC-HIF)
$11.89
Daisy Chain
by Charlotte Yonge
from Beautiful Feet Books
Realistic Fiction for 9th-12th grade
in Morality Tales (Location: FIC-WHO)
$14.41 $10.20 (1 in stock)
Little Duke
Junior Deluxe Editions
by Charlotte M. Yonge, illustrated by Tom O'Sullivan
from Junior Deluxe Editions
for 5th-9th grade
in Historical Fiction (Location: FIC-HIF)
Little Duke
by Charlotte M. Yonge
from J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd.
for 4th-8th grade
in Historical Fiction (Location: FIC-HIF)
Little Duke
by Charlotte M. Yonge
from Living Book Press
for 5th-9th grade
in Historical Fiction (Location: FIC-HIF)
$6.79
Unknown to History
by Charlotte M. Yonge
from Living Book Press
for 7th-12th grade
in Historical Fiction (Location: FIC-HIF)
$12.74
Unknown to History
by Charlotte Mary Yonge
from Silver Scroll Publishing
for 9th-12th grade
in Historical Fiction (Location: FIC-HIF)