Last week I blogged about two parts of a passage from Ellen Glasgow's 1911 work The Miller of Old Church. A friend e-mailed to comment that though she couldn't remember a single thing about Glasgow, she had a gut feeling that Glasgow had been a big name in her time.
I did a little digging, and found a biography from circa 1960 which indicatd that, yes indeed, she had been. The story starts out exactly as you would expect of the stereotypical lady novelist of her era: ill health as a child, read extensively in the family library, not very close to parents but very close to a sister, etc.
Then I learned that she came to reject religion as a young adult and wanted instead to promote the rising middle class through her fiction. Much of the religious ruminating I found hilarious was in fact supposed to be hilarious (I stand corrected) and that the various class aspects were intentional.
The biographer praised Glasgow's scenery descriptions (I agree) and her general enthusiasm for writing. Apparently in her day, Glasgow was in a league with Edith Wharton and Willa Cather.
All right, so what happened? Well, the bigrapher noted some of the problems I have - the prose and language are dated and while concepts are good, the storylines are thin and repatative.
It's the old challenge, really - which of the authors making a storm today will be around and known in fifty years time? Stephen King? Yes, I think so. J.K. Rowling? Permanently ensconsed. Helen Fielding? I'm not so sure.