Collective Biographies of WomenAn Annotated Bibliography
Fifty Famous Women and the Lessons of Their Lives: Illustrated with Numerous Wood Engravings. London: Ward, Lock, [1850?]. London and New York: Ward, Lock, , . Title variant: Fifty Famous Women, Their Virtues and Failings and the Lessons of Their Lives. Illustrated. London: Ward, Lock, & Tyler, 1864; 1876.
TOC: Madame de Lavalette; Lady Rachel Russell; the Empress Josephine; Margaret of Anjou; Esther Johnson [Stella]; Margaret Roper; Lady Jane Grey; the Empress Maude; Charlotte Corday; Anne Askew; Lady Arabella Stuart; Christina of Sweden; Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough; Lucy Hutchinson; Madame Roland; Grace Darling; Madame D'Arblay [Burney]; Madame de Stael; Mrs. Chisholm; Poccahontas [sic]; Madame de Maintenon; Ida Pfeiffer; Mary Queen of Scots; Maria Theresa; Queen Louisa of Prussia; Queen Catherine Parr; Elizabeth the Holy Maid of Kent; Dame Eleanor Davies; Lady Norton; Elizabeth Burnet; Mary II [Queen of William III]; Joan of Arc; Isabella of Castille; Marie Antoinette; Charlotte Brontë; Marie de Medicis; Henrietta Maria; Joan of Navarre; Mrs. Fry; Mrs. Hemans; Mrs. Unwin; Frederika Bremer; Queen Chlothilda[sic]; Queen Elizabeth; Anne Boleyn; Queen Anne; Catherine of Arragon; Mrs. Elizabeth Carter; Lady Pakington; Anne Countess of Winchelsea.
Contents of  edition (University of Western Ontario copy), the first sixteen names identical to above, but varying after Madame D'Arblay with some of the same figures amid new names.
TOC: Madame de Lavalette; Lady Rachel Russell; the Empress Josephine; Margaret of Anjou; Esther Johnson [Stella]; Margaret Roper; Lady Jane Grey; the Empress Maude; Charlotte Corday; Anne Askew; Lady Arabella Stuart; Christina of Sweden; Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough; Lucy Hutchinson; Madame Roland; Grace Darling; Madame D'Arblay [Burney]; Matilda, Countess of Tuscany; Madame de Stael; Mrs. Chisholm; Poccahontas [sic]; Madame de Maintenon; Ida Pfeiffer; Princess de Lamballe; Louisa Queen of Prussia; Queen Catherine Parr; Mrs. Somerville; Sarah Margaret Fuller; Elizabeth Burnet; Mary II [Queen of William III]; Joan of Arc; Isabella of Castille; Marie Antoinette; Charlotte Bronte; Lady Anne Barnard; Marie de Medicis; Henrietta Maria; Joan of Navarre; Mrs. Fry; Queen Elizabeth; Mary Queen of Scots; Lady Hester Stanhope; Elizabeth of Hungary; Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire; Anne Boleyn; Queen Anne; Carolina, Baroness Nairne; Mrs. Elizabeth Carter; Mrs. Siddons.
See Robertson 1936.
British Library copy with the first title, likely to be circa 1870. One catalogue has “1830-1850?,” unlikely dates given Charlotte Brontë's presence in the known tables of contents (she was famous after 1847, but entering biographies after her death and Gaskell's biography 1855-1857). “Sketches,” including some negative examples: “many a wasted life, and many a career exhibiting only mistaken activity . . . carries with it its lesson” (iii-iv). First-person anonymous introduction offers the collection as answer to the question, “What is really woman's work?”(2). The subjects show that heriosm belongs “with duty and work” they are “types of a class--chosen representatives. . . from the mass of that great army of female heroism, whose rank and file lie buried, unremembered and unchronicled, in nameless graves beneath the quiet churchyard grass” (4).
In the edition owned by University of Western Ontario, significant variation appears: a different TOC (as noted), and the following two-page Preface:
"In this gallery of “Fifty Famous Women,” it is intended to present lifelike sketches, if not finished portraits, of those who have attained celebrity by their own talents or been born to emininent positions, and have exhibited qualities which made them memorable. Varied in character as in the positions occupied, the fifty chosen are representatives of the large number who as princesses, authoresses, philanthropists, or leaders of society have done honour to their sex; and representatives too of those whose sad histories excited universal interest, although their own characters may have been marked by errors and weaknesses.
"Humanity is never perfect, and to find fifty persons of either sex for whom we must feel unqualified admiration would be difficult; but the lives we have selected for illustration are those of women whose careers may be profitably studied, and many of whom may be taken as models to be studied and imitated by the young.
"In these days, when the claim of women to a larger share in public and professional duties is so earnestly advanced, and their social and intellectual position is so warmly discussed, it will probably be interesting to note the abilities or virtues, the genius or enterprise of Fifty Famous Women, who may be considered as representatives of their sex. Among them we shall find illustrations of talent, devotion, liberality, and thoughtfulness, which entitle them to a place in the ranks of those whom all the world honour."
The University of Western Ontario copy indicates its later-Victorian origin with is blue cloth cover stamped with black and red geometric patterns intertwined with red-blossomed black branches. On the spine the title and publisher’s name appear in gold bands; on the front cover, the title only, with the sort of art-nouveau detailing that might border a Beardsley print. The frontispiece is an engraving, "Mrs. Siddons as the Tragic Muse." The type and illustrations are of poor quality; wood-engraved headpieces and tailpieces appear in most chapters, some of the standard-issue irrelevant sort. Some illustrations feature biographical scenes or places, and there are some full-page portraits or historic scenes (rotated) throughout. Some chapters have no portrait. The most telling feature is a book catalogue at the back, by price; first, “The Cheapest Standard Books Published” "Ward & Lock’s Shilling Library of Famous Books for All Time” (1 page), including J.C. Watt’s Great Novelists , of 1880, and H. J. Nicoll’s Life of Thomas Carlyle , first published in 1881 (the year of Carlyle's death). A second section features “Gift Books at Three Shillings & Sixpence” in two lists: “The Home Treasure Library” (1 page, mostly with coloured illustrations, fiction) and “The Good Worth Library” (2 pages), including most relevantly, "Fifty Celebrated Women: Their Virtues and Failings, and the Lessons of Their Lives” and "Fifty Celebrated Men:Their Lives and Trials, and the Deeds that Made Them Famous." Some fiction, some other biographical collections: "Famous Boys"; "Mary Bunyan, the Daughter of John Bunyan," by Sallie Rochester Ford; biographies of President Garfield, of General Gordon; lots of advice and self-help; “Famous People and Famous Places”; “Sacred Heroes and Martyrs” by JT Headley.See also Pop Chart
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