Broughton, Rhoda (1840–1920)

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Broughton, Rhoda (1840–1920)

British novelist who published more than 25 works of romantic fiction. Born Rhoda Broughton in Denbighshire, North Wales, on November 29, 1840; died in Headington Hill, Oxford, England, on June 5, 1920; daughter of Jane (Bennett) Broughton (daughter of a Dublin lawyer) and Delves Broughton (a cleric); educated at home; never married; no children.

Selected works:

Not Wisely but Too Well (1867); Cometh Up As a Flower (1867); A Fool in Her Folly (1920).

Born in Denbighshire, North Wales, on November 29, 1840, Rhoda Broughton was the youngest of four children of Reverend Delves Broughton and Jane Bennett Broughton . She grew up in an Elizabethan manor house, complete with library, and was educated at home by her father, who emphasized reading, particularly poetry. Following the death of her father in 1863 (her mother had died three years previous), Rhoda moved to her sister Eleanor's home, bringing with her an early draft of the novel Not Wisely but Too Well. Published in 1867, this work was the beginning of Broughton's routine of a novel every two years. All were published anonymously until Goodbye Sweetheart in 1872.

The proceeds from Broughton's extremely popular fiction brought both financial security and celebrity. She became friends with Henry James and enjoyed the social scene. Author Percy Lubbock noted: "There was the cut of her talk, the cheerful slash of her phrase, the snap and crackle of her wit, with all this Rhoda was a personage indeed, not lightly to be engaged, but on no account to be missed or forgotten."

In her provincial hometown, the love affairs Broughton depicted in her fiction were considered risqué, an assessment subsequently made of the author as well. Thus, in 1888, Rhoda and Eleanor moved to London where Broughton was admired instead for her forthright and imposing personality. Eleanor tended their home so that Rhoda might devote her full attention to writing. From then on, Broughton spent a portion of each year in the Chelsea district, becoming a full-time resident in 1890 when she and Eleanor, her constant companion, moved to Richmond. There they remained until 1894, at which time Eleanor's sudden death left Broughton at loose ends.

Returning to the Oxford area, Broughton henceforth lived with a cousin. She was hampered by severe arthritis and, for her final 20 years, frequently dictated her novels. In 1920, she spent a final season in London, receiving friends at a rented flat and working regularly. Rhoda Broughton died in Oxford on June 5 of that year, age 79.

suggested reading:

Wood, Marilyn. Rhoda Broughton: Profile of a Novelist. Stanford, England: Paul Watkins, 1993.

Crista Martin , Boston, Massachusetts