Wood, Ellen Price (1814–1887)

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Wood, Ellen Price (1814–1887)

Prolific English novelist who wrote the hugely popular East Lynne . Name variations: Mrs. Henry Wood; Johnny Ludlow. Born Ellen Price on January 17, 1814, in Worcester, England; died on February 10, 1887, in London; daughter of Thomas Price and Elizabeth (Evans) Price; married Henry Wood (a banker), in 1836; children: Charles Wood (b. 1850).

The popular Victorian novelist Ellen Price Wood was born in 1814 in Worcester, England, to a prosperous manufacturing family. After developing scoliosis as a child, she had to be educated at home. She would remain a semi-invalid throughout her life, able to write only while lying on a couch. At age 22, she married Henry Wood, son of a wealthy banking and shipping family. The couple lived in the Dauphiné, France, for most of the first two decades of their marriage.

While in France, Wood wrote stories which were published in Bentley's Miscellany and the New Monthly Magazine. In 1860, a setback in Henry Wood's financial fortunes led the family to return to England and settle in Norwood. There Ellen wrote her first novel, completed in one month, for a contest sponsored by the Scottish Temperance League. Danesbury House won first prize and was later published. Her second novel East Lynne appeared first serially in the New Monthly Magazine in 1861 and then in book form. It was highly praised by The Times, and by 1900 had sold over half a million copies. The most widely read of her novels, it was translated into many languages and frequently dramatized. Wood followed the success of East Lynne with the family sagas Mrs. Halliburton's Troubles and The Channings. All of her novels were published under the name "Mrs. Henry Wood." Though written in a variety of genres, her books share a melodramatic style and a similar theme, a stern Christian morality with severe punishment for those characters who transgress middle-class Victorian values. A politically conservative, pious Anglican, Wood also used her novels to argue against progressive social movements, such as trade unionism. The Channings was followed by the Gothic The Shadow of Ashlydyat (1863), Lord Oakburn's Daughters (1864), and Roland Yorke (1869) among others.

Henry Wood died in 1866. The following year Ellen and her son Charles bought a literary magazine, The Argosy, which they then co-edited. Wood also contributed to the magazine; her colorful stories based on her Worcestershire childhood and published under the name "Johnny Ludlow" are thought to be her best works from these years. Wood completed an additional 20 novels, most notably Edina (1876). In all, she published over 30 novels and 300 short stories. Wood died in 1887, at age 73.

sources:

Shattock, Joanne, ed. The Oxford Guide to British Women Writers. NY: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Wood, Charles. Memorials of Mrs. Henry Wood. London: R. Bentley, 1894.

Laura York , M.A. in History, University of California, Riverside, California

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