Victorian Popular Fictions 2: 1 2 Stringos

Young Aspiring Women Writers, Romantic Love and Disillusionment in Rhoda Broughton’s A Beginner (1894) and A Fool in her Folly (1920)

Graziella Stringos


Despite significant writing by women in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, it was in the nineteenth that fiction by women became extensive and widely published, prompting numerous – sometimes prejudiced – evaluations of their works. The popular writer Rhoda Broughton (1840-1920), herself subject to adverse and biased criticism, addresses the notion of female imagination and creativity and the Victorian conception of the female writer in her two novels, A Beginner (1894) and the posthumous A Fool in her Folly (1920). Broughton relates the arduous journey of young first-time writers, Emma Jocelyn and Charlotte Hankey respectively, and exposes the limited opportunities open to them in both the private and public spheres. Two novels focus on the two young heroines – women, lovers and writers – in such a way that initiation becomes a major site for the exploration of female consciousness and experience. The convergence of the fictive and the real in the two texts also serves to highlight the relevance of literature by women. This is achieved firstly through the juxtaposition of the two heroines’ vicissitudes with those of real women, including Broughton herself; secondly, through the heroines’ admiration for other women writers, particularly Charlotte and Emily Brontë and George Eliot; and thirdly, in the echoes of texts by women writers including Jane Austen and Anne Brontë. Contemporary society’s prejudice against unconventional women is confirmed but clearly not endorsed in the endings of the two texts. Broughton’s thought-provoking studies of women’s quests for personal and professional identity classify her as a perceptive writer who advocates the intellectual and emotional empowerment of women at a time when women were challenging limited definitions of their sex and fighting for their social rights.

Key Words

Rhoda Broughton; feminism; women’s writing; Victorian literary milieu; female emancipation; private and public spheres; sensation fiction; popular fiction; love/romance; marriage.

Date of Acceptance: 9 July 2020

Date of Publication: 13 July 2020

Double Blind Peer Reviewed

Recommended Citation

Stringos, Graziella. 2020. “Young Aspiring Women Writers, Romantic Love and Disillusionment in Rhoda Broughton’s A Beginner (1894) and A Fool in her Folly (1920).” Victorian Popular Fictions, 2.1: 24-42. DOI:

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