A rediscovered life: A selective annotated edition of the letters of Caroline Elizabeth Norton, \ud 1828-1877

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Belson, R.

This thesis is a selective and annotated edition of 168 of the 2127 extant letters by Caroline Elizabeth Norton currently known to be available in both the public and private domain, which have been collected and transcribed for the project. The selection includes both the first extant letter, dated 28 July [1828] and the last, written on 10 June 1877, five days before her death. Those of Caroline Norton’s letters already published in an annotated edition have not been included in the selection. The letters are grouped chronologically into five chapters, each representing approximately a decade of the author’s life. Each chapter is preceded by a lengthy commentary outlining the key historical and political events of each period and providing a thematic analysis of how the letters, including the residual 92% of correspondence not selected for the edition, comment on aspects of Caroline Norton’s life, beliefs, work, family, relationships and society. In particular the discussion will focus on how the letters challenge existing notions in these areas and reflect on comparably under-investigated or almost entirely non-researched biographical topics, such as the epistolary strategy Caroline Norton employed to secure the Infant Custody Act, her views on literature and other writers, her health, and the nature of her relationships with her family, particularly her son Brinsley, and other key individuals in her life, such as Mary Shelley, Edward Trelawny, Lord Melbourne and Sidney Herbert. The five chapters are prefaced by an introduction that initially summarises Caroline Norton’s significance and biography. This is followed by a literary review, discussions of how my research relates to her place in nineteenth-century literature and to the literature of epistolary studies and a summary of the principal findings of this thesis. The main body of the thesis is followed by a bibliographical appendix, the methodology adopted is set out a second appendix, while a third contains sample reproductions of the manuscripts of four letters with accompanying transcripts.
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