The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life

Welcome to a site celebrating classic women authors who wrote in the English language. Here you’ll find their words of wisdom for readers and writers. Enjoy their life stories and quotations; learn more about their books; read their advice on the writing life; and enjoy contemporary voices on the writing process.

Rossetti, Christina

Christina Rossetti-1877

Christina Georgina Rossetti (December 5, 1830 – December 29, 1894), one of the most enduring of Victorian poets,  was born in London, the youngest of four artistic and literary siblings. Best known for her long poem Goblin Market, her love poem Remember, and the lyrics to the popular Christmas carol In the Bleak Midwinter, Algernon Charles Swinburne and Lord Tennyson praised her work and she was hailed as the natural successor to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Christina’s poetry and prose reflected her pensive, passionate, devotional, and, at times, playful personality. She used lyricism and symbolism to contemplate themes like earthly and divine love, nature, death, gender and sexuality, and drew inspiration from the Bible, folk stories and the lives of the saints.

Christina’s father, Gabriele Rossetti, escaped post-Napoleonic Italy to find political asylum and a career as a Dante scholar in England. Her intensely religious mother, Frances Polidori, was English born, the daughter of an Italian expatriate. Christina, her sister and two brothers—the most famous being the Pre-Raphaelite artist and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti—grew up in a happy, loving home in London’s Fitzroy square, a gathering place for the city’s Italian refugees, among them scholars, painters, poets, and revolutionaries. The Rossetti children were exposed to discussions of politics, literature, and art, and were all avid readers and writers, educated at home by their mother. Read More→

Daphne Du Maurier: Her Writing Habits and Style

Daphne du Maurier postage stamp

Reprinted by permission from The Writing Desk; contributed by Tony Riches: Daphne du Maurier was born in London in May 1907 and was still writing at her death in 1989. Educated by private tutors in Paris, she published her first short stories at the age of twenty-one. Her publisher encouraged her to write a novel, which became The Loving Spirit in 1931. She was made a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1952 and became a Dame of the British Empire in 1969. In 1977 she won the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Award. As well as Jamaica Inn, Hitchcock directed film versions of The Birds and Rebecca. Film versions were also made of many of her other books, including Frenchman’s CreekHungry Hill, and My Cousin Rachel, which starred Richard Burton and Olivia de Havilland.  Read More→

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1940) by Carson McCullers

Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

From the 1940 edition, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston:  Carson McCullers was only twenty-two when she wrote The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, but her literary style was worthy of her insights into the human spirit. The novel was acclaimed as the work of a prodigy by critics and writers.

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is concerned primarily with the struggle of human beings to build bridges of communication between their separate islands of loneliness. The motif of the book is the effort of all the main characters to extort from Singer, a deaf mute, some answer to their confused desires. Around Singer, a man of mystical understanding, the other characters move in an intricate dance of hope and despair: Mick, and adolescent ardently longing to express herself in music; Jake Blount, a wild blundering reformer; Dr. Copeland, the African-American patriarch. Their appeal to Singer is the appeal of all humanity to a mute, cryptic universe. Read More→