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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Dinah Maria Mulock Craik (1826–1887)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
ALTHOUGH the daughter of a clergyman of the Established Church, Dinah Mulock was not herself a Churchwoman, and in her earlier works she frequently declares her belief in freedom of religious thought and action. She was led to take this attitude by her conviction that her mother was unkindly treated by her father, who in her opinion did not live up to the principles he professed. In a blaze of youthful indignation she carried her delicate mother and younger brothers away from their home at Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, and undertook to support them all by her pen. ‘The Ogilvies,’ her first novel, was published in 1849, and her first struggle was successful. But she was soon deprived of the cause which she had gone forth to champion. Her mother and one of her brothers died, and she was left alone with her youngest brother to continue her work. Her loving description of her mother in ‘My Mother and I’ will be remembered as the picture of a pure, tender, and gentle woman.  1
  ‘Olive’ and ‘The Head of the Family’ soon followed ‘The Ogilvies,’ and in the second of these stories she showed highly imaginative and dramatic qualities, though the plot is simplicity itself. After ‘Agatha’s Husband’ was issued in 1852, no other work of consequence appeared from her pen until the publication in 1857 of ‘John Halifax, Gentleman,’ her most popular novel. It was the portraiture of a gentleman by instinct, though not by social position. He is a middle-class business man, an inventor who has solved certain problems of capital and labor, and upholds “a true aristocracy,” which he defines as “the best men of the country.” “These,” he says, “ought to govern and will govern one day, whether their patent of nobility be birth and titles or only honesty and brains.”  2
  She always maintained that ‘A Life for a Life’ was her best book, a judgment shared by many of her friends and critics. ‘John Halifax,’ however, continues to hold the heart and imagination of the many most strongly; perhaps on account of its democratic principles. Mrs. Craik was an earnest advocate of legalizing marriage with a deceased wife’s sister, and ‘Hannah,’ a strong but painful story, deals with this subject. She published between forty and fifty works,—novels, tales for the young, volumes of travel, and poems. She is a writer of the best sort of English domestic novels, full of strong moral purpose. She avoids over-romantic or over-emotional themes, but the tender and poetical ideals of ordinary womanhood find in her a satisfactory exponent. As a poet her position, though not a high one, is lasting. Her versification is good, and her sentiment is always tender, truthful, and noble. Perhaps her best verses are those given below. In 1865 she made a happy marriage, and as her life grew larger and fuller her home became the center of a group of affectionate friends,—artists, literary men, musicians, and many others full of intellectual interests and aspirations. She died suddenly but peacefully at her home at Shortlands, Kent, near London, on October 12th, 1887.  3
 
 
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