The Female Professional as Orphan in Charlotte Riddell’s A Struggle for Fame

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In Charlotte Riddell's A Struggle for Fame (1883), motherless Glenarva Westley becomes a professional novelist to support first her financially ruined father and then her insolvent husband. This article examines the impact of Glen's father and husband on her development as not only an author, but also as an autonomous person, and reads A Struggle for Fame as a novel in which independence, creativity, productivity, and contentment are threatened by emotional and familial commitments. Neither Glen's father nor husband deliberately hinder her professional progress, but the financial and emotional drains they place on her outweigh their attempts at support. The novel concerns the worldly themes of business and professionalism for which Riddell was famous, and some of the particular difficulties encountered by women in the public sphere and the marketplace. It also, however, explores more universal existential anxieties about selfhood and the subordination of duty to oneself to duty to one's family. Significantly, Glen's greatest professional successes are coupled with the deaths of her father and husband, who due to his age and demeanour acts as a father figure, meaning that Riddell effectively shows Glen to be twice-orphaned, and so twice liberated from family constraints.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-146
Number of pages18
Issue number2
Early online date30 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


  • Charlotte Riddell
  • women's writing
  • authorship
  • family
  • independence
  • professionalism


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