the short story project

Charlotte Riddell

Charlotte Riddell

Charlotte Riddell, aka Mrs. J.H. Riddell (1832-1906), was a British writer. She was born in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland. She was the youngest daughter of James Cowan, High Sheriff for the County of Antrim, and Ellen Kilshaw, originally from Liverpool, England. Riddell was a natural born storyteller: before she was old enough to read and write, her mother would write down her ideas and by the time she was fifteen she had written a full-length novel, which was never published. The happy childhood at Carrickfergus came to an end when her father died, and nineteen-year-old Charlotte and her mother were at once reduced from affluence to very limited means. They moved to London in 1885, where Charlotte endeavored to earn a living as a writer to support them. This experience was later portrayed in her novel Struggle for Fame (1883). She published her first novel, The Moors and the Fens (1858), under the pseudonym of F.G. Trafford. After her mothers’ death in 1857, she married Joseph Hadley Riddell, a civil engineer who worked in the City of London. His business and health had collapsed by 1871, and Charlotte was pushed once again into the role of breadwinner. During her lifetime, Riddell has published more than 56 books, novels and story collections— including George Geith of Fen Court (1864), The Uninhabited House (1875), and Weird Stories (1882), to mention a few— and became one of the most popular and influential writers of the Victorian period. Subjects covered in her fiction included her native Ireland, London city life, the world of commerce and the supernatural. Her novels— Fairy Water (1873), The Haunted River (1877), The Disappearance of Mr. Jeremiah Redworth (1878), and The Nun’s Curse (1888)— deal with buildings blighted by supernatural phenomena. In 1868, at the height of her success, she became part owner and editor of St. James’s Magazine, one of the most prestigious literary magazines of the 1860s. Although a popular author, she struggled to earn an adequate income. However, towards the end of her life, she became the first pensioner of the newly-formed Society of Authors. Her last work, Poor Fellow!, was published in 1902. She died at the age of 74 after a long struggle with breast cancer.


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