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Ellen Glasgow Biography

(1874–1945), The Descendant, The Voice of the People, The Battleground, The Deliverance, The Wheel of Life

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Ellen Gilchrist Biography to Grain

American novelist, born in Richmond, Virginia, the first major novelist of the South. Her first novel, The Descendant (1897), was followed by The Voice of the People (1900), which began her long series of novels charting the social and political history of the South from the Antebellum through the Civil War to the ravages of the ‘carpetbaggers’ during the Reconstruction and the subsequent assimilation of the Southern states into the Union. Emulating Balzac, she divided her novels into different groups: ‘Novels of the Commonwealth (dealing with the Virginian past)’; ‘Novels of the Country’; and ‘Novels of the City’. The earliest of these include The Battleground (1902), The Deliverance (1904), The Wheel of Life (1906), The Ancient Law (1908), The Romance of a Plain Man (1909), and The Miller of Old Church (1911). In Virginia (1913), a poignant study of a woman brought up to be nothing but a social ornament, and Life and Gabriella (1916), she focuses her powers of empathy and analysis on the condition of women. Three novels of political and social conflict followed: The Builders (1919), Old Man in His Time (1922), and Barren Ground (1925); and three penetrating satirical novels of manners: The Romantic Comedians (1926), They Stooped to Folly (1929), and The Sheltered Life (1932). In Vein of Iron (1935), Glasgow returns to the theme of rural life, exploring the qualities of endurance necessary for survival in the harsh environment of which she writes. In This Our Life (1941; Pulitzer Prize) describes an aristocratic Virginian family fallen into decadence. Her posthumously published autobiography The Woman Within (1954) movingly describes her tormented emotional life and her aspirations for her fiction.

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