Author Information At the Circulating Library
Author: Dora Russell (1830–1905)
Biography: Dora Russell was born in 1830 in Willington, Northumberland, the daughter of George Greenwell Russell and Dorothy Bulman. Her father was a colliery agent and estate manager and the family enjoyed a comfortable middle-class existence. Russell was educated at home by a governess and briefly attended school. In the 1850s, the family's fortunes began to fade: first, Russell's father lost his position when the colliery closed; and second, the family's farm failed. Russell turned to writing fiction, submitting stories to newspapers without success. In 1870, she won a fiction prize competition sponsored by the Newcastle Weekly Chronicle. The editor of the newspaper encouraged Russell and she wrote further stories. The following year, in 1871, her father died. Thereafter, Russell lived by her pen. Moving to London in 1874, Russell published her first three-volume novel, The Vicar's Governess (1874), with the assistance of publisher George Routledge. She will go on to write a further two dozen novels, most of which will be serialized through the Tillotson agency with whom she had a close working relationship (her novel Beneath the Wave is dedicated to W.F. Tillotson). Russell's novels were generally considered sensational, loved by readers but spurned by critics. Russell never married and lived in London with her two sisters. In the mid 1890s, Russell's health began to fail and her writing output slowed considerably. One novel, in particular, A Torn-out Page (1899), needed to be completed by someone else. Suffering financially, she received aid from the Royal Literary Fund and charitable contributions. Russell died in 1905 in London.
References: Author (2 July 1900); Helen C. Black, Pen, Pencil, Baton, and Mask (Spottiswoode, 1896); British Census (1881, 1901); Graham Law, ed., Varieties of Women's Sensation Fiction: 1855–1890, vol. 6 (Pickering and Chatto, 2004); RLF (case number 2524)