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At the Circulating Library

A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901

A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901

Title: A Struggle for Fame

Author and Title: Charlotte Elizabeth Riddell. A Struggle for Fame: A Novel

First Edition: London: Bentley, 1883. 3 volumes, post 8vo, 31s 6d.

Summary: The novel begins with the arrival from Belfast to London of Glenarva Westley and Bernard Kelly who coincidently share a boat and train ride. Kelly, the son of a provincial mother, moves to London to make his way as a writer. He first stays with his relation Matthew Donagh, a dandified self-proclaimed journalist (though actually an advertising canvasser), but receives no help from the self-centered man. Instead, he makes the acquaintance of the bohemian Dawton family through a comic accident and enters the world of journalism specializing in essays on slum life. He eventually rises to become an editor and novelist after marrying a wealthy wife. Glenarva travels with her widowed father: the owner of the Glenarva estate, he no longer has the funds to maintain it after a failed investment. His daughter hopes to become a novelist to repair his fortunes. Her juvenile works meet with a cold response from the publisher Vassett (based on the real-life Newby) but the publisher encourages her efforts and Glenarva eventually publishes her first novel. In the meantime, she and her father meet the struggling businessman Mr. Lacere. After the death of her father, Glenarva marries Lacere and she works to support his business. Fame comes first with the novel Ashtree Manor and fortune comes second with the switch to the new pushing publisher Felton and Laplash (based on Tinsley Brothers). Thereafter, she circulates in literary circles with fellow authors, editors, and publishers but her writing devolves into sentimental potboilers. Glenarva eventually suffers a breakdown. While living in the country, she reassesses her career and returns to the type of books that made her fame. Unfortunately, her husband dies suddenly. The novel ends with Glenarva rejecting a marriage offer from a long-time friend. Riddell based the book on her own experiences as an author. (TJB)

Title Tags:

References: BL; EC; Sutherland


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