Clarke, Norma 1948–
Clarke, Norma 1948–
PERSONAL: Born 1948. Education: Holds a doctorate.
ADDRESSES: Office—Kingston University, Penrhyn Rd., Kingston upon Thames, Surrey KT1 2EE, England. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Kingston University, Surrey, England, senior lecturer.
Ambitious Heights: Writing, Friendship, Love: The Jewsbury Sisters, Felicia Hemans and Jane Welsh Carlyle (history and criticism), Routledge (London, England), 1990.
(With Helen Weinstein) Spinning with the Brian: Women's Writing in Seventeenth Century England, BBC (London, England), 1996.
Dr. Johnson's Women (biography), Hambledon & London (London, England), 2000.
The Rise and Fall of the Woman of Letters (history and criticism), Pimlico (London, England), 2004.
Contributor to works by others, including Opening the Nursery Door: Reading, Writing and Childhood 1600–1900, edited by Mary Hilton, Morag Styles, and Victor Watson, Routledge (London, England), 1997; and Practical Visionaries: Women, Education and Social Progress 1790–1930, edited by Pam Hirsch and Mary Hilton, Longman (Harlow, Englnad), 1998.
Patrick in Person, illustrated by Vanessa Julian-Ottie, Faber & Faber (London, England), 1991.
Patrick and the Rotten Roman Rubbish, illustrated by Vanessa Julian-Ottie, Faber & Faber (London, England), 1993.
(With Peter Kavanagh) Trouble on the Day, A.&C. Black (London, England), 1995.
The Doctor's Daughter, illustrated by Michael Charlton, A.&C. Black (London, England), 1996.
Also author of the children's book Theo's Time.
SIDELIGHTS: Norma Clarke is a literary historian and an author of nonfiction for adults and fiction for children. She is perhaps best known for her nonfiction works. Her book Ambitious Heights: Writing, Friendship, Love: The Jewsbury Sisters, Felicia Hemans and Jane Welsh Carlyle is a study of four Victorian-era writers. Maria Jane Jewsbury was a literary journalist, while her sister, Geraldine, wrote novels and was a publisher's reader. Felicia Hemans was a very successful poet who wrote nearly one volume a year for two decades, from which she earned a handsome income. Clarke draws on the letters of these women and those of Jane Welsh Carlyle to study the state of women's professional lives, education, and marriages of the period. She particularly evaluates the level of acknowledgment, or lack thereof, of women's literary talent.
The biography Dr. Johnson's Women studies female writers in mid-eighteenth-century London by focusing on six who were acquaintances of Samuel Johnson. They are Elizabeth Carter, Charlotte Lennox, Hester Thrale, Elizabeth Montagu, Hannah More, and Fanny Burney. Of these, only Thrale was connected romantically with Johnson, but Clarke uses Johnson only as a connecting figure to the women she considers independently as intellectuals and writers. Lance Wilcox wrote in the Historian that "Clarke does not so much argue a thesis as explore a social/professional world, which she peoples with an interesting and volatile cast." Wilcox concluded, "Her work is literate, graceful, and cagey; implicitly informed by theory without being bogged down by it; and possessing unusual narrative zest."
Clarke studies eighteenth-century women authors in The Rise and Fall of the Woman of Letters, including less well-known writers such as Aphra Behn, Elizabeth Singer, and Anne Seward. The book considers why many fine writers received little attention in comparison to those of similar abilities who received lavish praise. Library Journal critic Paolina Taglienti called the book "a scholastic achievement."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Biography, winter, 2003, Sarah R. Morrison, review of Dr. Johnson's Women, p. 160.
Historian, spring, 2003, Lance Wilcox, review of Dr. Johnson's Women, p. 751.
Library Journal, October 1, 2005, Paolina Taglienti, review of The Rise and Fall of the Woman of Letters, p. 74.
Modern Language Review, October, 2002, Judith Hawley, review of Dr. Johnson's Women, pp. 934-936.
Victorian Studies, spring, 1993, Deirdre David, review of Ambitious Heights: Writing, Friendship, Love: The Jewsbury Sisters, Felicia Hemans and Jane Welsh Carlyle, p. 399.
Kingston University Web site, http://fass.kingston.ac.uk/ (January 5, 2006), author profile.