L.T. Meade, “The Queen of Girls’-Book Makers”: the Rise and Fall of a Victorian Bestseller

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County Cork-born author L. T. Meade (1844–1914) is the consummate example of the once extraordinarily popular and prolific Victorian writer who is now largely unknown—a scenario made all the more remarkable given the scale of her former success. Meade was a bestseller in her day, and reviews in the press often discussed a number of her books at once, such was the scale of her prolificacy. Yet not all commentators approved of the kinds of books Meade produced. This essay charts the vilification of Meade as the purveyor of potentially harmful writing for the young, and examines her assertive responses to such criticisms. Meade was forthright in her defence of her writing practices, her dedication to professionalism, and the tastes of her readers in both press interviews and her fictional portrayal of the writing process. By exploring these authorial interventions in discussions about the suitability of girls' books, the author suggests that Meade offers something of a cautionary tale in the history of the bestseller, and examines the extent to which such debates with reviewers contributed to her fall from fame in the twentieth century. The essay argues that Meade's case demonstrates that bestselling women writers at this period often had to formulate particular strategies in order to negotiate a literary marketplace in which they were not always welcome.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)264-281
Number of pages18
JournalWomen's Writing
Issue number3
Early online date26 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - 03 Jul 2019


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