Carolyn continues to stay connected to industry and follow the developments that are relevant to English graduates.
Her research passion is linked to representations of widows in eighteenth and nineteenth-century literature. In 2014, she gave a paper at St Hugh’s College, University of Oxford, on the role of the long eighteenth-century widowed writer in the production of Conjugal Fidelity Rewarded, a novel featured in the Chawton House Library collection.
She can talk endlessly about her fascination with the ways in which widows are portrayed in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century plays, poetry and the novel but her interest extends beyond these forms to conduct literature, legal documents, sermons, correspondence and other written forms. In a contemporary context, she is intrigued by the widows who find their way into advertising and commercial products. Lloyds TSB’s construction of the Scottish Widow as their ‘living logo’ is now widely recognised as one of the most successful financial campaigns. The eighteenth-century widow, Madame Clicquot for whom the champagne brand Veuve Clicquot is named, is responsible for encouraging the nobility in Europe to choose champagne as their drink of choice.
The works of literary widows, such as the nineteenth-century Scottish widow, Mrs Margaret Oliphant, disappeared from reading lists until scholars in the mid-1980s began to recognise the significance of her contribution to literature. The death of loved ones was a regular feature of the widow Oliphant’s real life. Despite her hardships, she published over 120 works which included novels, travel writing, biographies, collections of letters and a significant volume of reviews. Mrs Oliphant is also said to have been Queen Victoria’s favourite writer.
Charlotte Despard, who was widowed young, spent several of her later years hanging out with WB Yeats’s muse, Maud Gonne. This earned them the nickname around Dublin: ‘Gone Mad and Mrs Desperate’. Charlotte Despard’s widowhood was the catalyst to her work with the poor in Battersea, her involvement in the suffragette movement and the many publications and public speeches for which she was famous. Despard was easy to recognise by her unusual visual appearance: stunning grey hair covered by a mantilla, which she was never seen in public without.
Carolyn belongs to a few literary organisations: BSECS (the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies), BAVS (British Association for Victorian Studies) and the Women’s History Network.
More recently she has also started to combine her experience in publishing for a primary education market with the historical production of children’s literature. Many widowed writers had a role in the construction and delivery of educational materials for children.
Work in progress
Carolyn is soon to complete her project A Cultural History of Widowhood.