Obituaries of Charlotte Riddell

Compiled by Michael Flowers ©2005-2006

 

The Times 26 September 1906

Mrs. J. H. Riddell

Mrs. Charlotte Eliza Lawson Riddell, the novelist, who died at Hounslow on Monday, was the youngest daughter of Mr. James Cowan, and was born at Carrickfergus, County Antrim, of which town her father served the office of High Sheriff, in 1837.  She married, in 1857, Mr J. H. Riddell, of Winsor-green-house, Staffordshire, a civil engineer.

                                   

Mrs. Riddell’s first novel, “The Moors and the Fens,” [*] was published in 1858 under the pseudonym of 1864, when “George Geith of Fen Court,” the novel which made her name, appeared.  Thenceforth her literary reputation was fully established, and she continued to write under her own name.  Between 1864 and 1902 she wrote upwards of thirty novels, and many of them passed into a second or third edition.  Her last, entitled, “Poor Fellow,” appeared in 1902.  Her best-known novels such as “George Geith,” “City and Suburb,” “Maxwell Drewitt,” “Austin Friars,” “Mitre Court,” “The Head of the Firm,” have as some of the titles show, a background of City and commercial life.  Commerce had scarcely before been considered a suitable theme, at least in this country, for fiction of for the drama.  In France it had already been used by Balzac in “Le Maison Nueingen” and “Cesar Birotreau.”  In the “sixties” it was the fashion, in English novels and plays, to look down on men engaged in trade.  Mrs. Riddell’s chief object seems to have been to prove that a man did not lose caste by engaging in business in the City.  The point has long since been conceded in English society; and to the present generation, Mrs. Riddell’s novels, like the French plays, in which there is a somewhat similar motif, of Augier and Sandeau, consequently seem somewhat antiquated.  Mrs. Riddell always wrote carefully, displayed much insight into character, and skill in manipulating her materials.  The tone of her novels was invariably wholesome, and they long retained their popularity.  “George Geith” was republished as lately as 1886.  It was dramatized in 1883 by Mr. Wybert Reeve and produced first at Scarborough with Mr. W. Blakely and Miss Ada Lester in the cast.  The piece was afterwards played in Australia.  But the only dramatic incident in the story, the reappearance of an objectionable wife supposed to be dead, was too hackneyed to make the play a success.

 

For some years from 1867 Mrs. Riddell was co-proprietor and editor of the now defunct St. James’s Magazine.  It had been started in 1861 under the direction of Mrs. S.C. Hall, and through its pages ran several of Miss Braddon’s best novels.  Mrs.  Riddell’s editorship began with the April number, 1868.  She likewise edited a magazine called Home, and wrote tales for the Christian Knowledge Society and for Routledge’s Christmas Annuals, but her short stories were far less successful than her novels.  In 1874 she revised Sir C.H. Roney’s “How to Spend a Month in Ireland.”

 

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