© 2017

Biographical Misrepresentations of British Women Writers

A Hall of Mirrors and the Long Nineteenth Century

  • Brenda Ayres
  • Tears down common biographical understandings of British women writers, offering these writers in a new light

  • Covers an impressive range of writers including Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Barrett Browning, the Brontes, and George Eliot

  • Connects the problem of biography to larger issues with the role of women in the nineteenth century


Part of the Palgrave Studies in Life Writing book series (PSLW)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xiv
  2. Brenda Ayres
    Pages 1-16
  3. Katherine Montwieler
    Pages 93-109
  4. Back Matter
    Pages 283-291

About this book


This book is an investigation of the biases, contradictions, errors, ambiguities, gaps, and historical contexts in biographies of controversial British women who published during the long nineteenth century, many of them left unchecked and perpetuated from publication to publication. Fourteen scholars analyze the agenda, problems, and strengths of biographical material, highlighting the flaws, deficiencies, and influences that have distorted the portraits of women such as Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Hays, Sydney Owenson, Letitia Elizabeth Landon, Felicia Hemans, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Caroline Norton, Elizabeth Gaskell, Charlotte Brontë, Lady Florence Dixie, George Eliot, and Edith Simcox. Through exposing distortions, this fascinating study demonstrates that biographies are often more about the biographer than they are about the biographee and that they are products of the time in which they are written.


Long Nineteenth Century Life Writing Women Writers Mary Wollstonecraft Sydney Owenson Gordon Haight Charlotte Brontë Sexism in Biography

Editors and affiliations

  • Brenda Ayres
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EnglishLiberty UniversityLynchburgUSA

About the editors

Brenda Ayres teaches at Liberty University and to date has published 27 books in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century English literature. Her most recent publications are on Mary Wollstonecraft and include: Betwixt and Between the Biographies of Mary Wollstonecraft, Wollstonecraft’s War with Womanhood, and An “Accountable Being”: Mary Wollstonecraft and Religion.

Bibliographic information


“Biographical Misrepresentations of British Women Writers explores how biographies are the products of the time in which they are written. In doing so, it unpacks the biases, contradictions, errors, ambiguities, distortions, and gaps that biographical accounts hide, and which have remained unchecked and are perpetuated from publication to publication.”  (Meritxell Simon-Martin, Biography, Vol. 42 (4), 2019)