Biography Caroline Elizabeth Sarah Norton

Caroline Elizabeth Sarah Norton

photo of Caroline Elizabeth Sarah Norton
  • Time Period1808 - 1877
  • Place
  • CountryEngland

Poet Biography

Caroline Elizabeth Sarah North was an English author. She was the granddaughter of playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan. Norton gained more renown for her eventful life than for her writings.

Married at the age of nineteen Caroline began writing both to amuse and express herself, and to help support herself and her husband. Their marriage was a disaster. It would have been hard to find two people more ill-suited. Caroline was outgoing, witty, and head-strong. Norton disliked 'cleverness', was not clever himself, and would discuss neither public nor their private affairs with her. Their political differences were a source of friction. He resented her closeness with her family; she came to dislike his relatives. He determined to teach her not to 'set herself up' against him. Within a few months of their marriage, he became physically abusive towards her.

Writing was in the family tradition. The Sheridan name was one to attract attention. Her first book came out in 1829: The Sorrows of Rosalie, A Tale with Other Poems. By then, Caroline also had a son, Fletcher Spencer Norton. In both roles, author and mother, Caroline found great satisfaction and happiness.

But by the time of Caroline's third pregnancy, in 1832, her relationship with her husband was becoming increasingly difficult. His violent behaviour alienated both Caroline and her family. In 1834, Caroline's family became so disgusted with Norton's conduct that they refused further contact with him. In 1835, pregnant for the fourth time, she was badly beaten and miscarried. Increasingly, she and her children sought refuge with her relatives, while Norton spent his time with a rich cousin, Margaret Vaughan. The final break between the Nortons came after a quarrel about where the children should spend Easter, 1836. When Caroline left the house to consult her sister, Norton unexpectedly sent the children to Margaret Vaughan, and ordered the servants not to let Caroline back in. Legally, as their father, he could dispose of them as he wished, regardless of their mother's wishes. Also by law, the house and all that was in it, even Caroline's personal correspondence, clothing, and manuscripts, were legally Norton's.

Her husband George Norton's divorce suit, with Lord Melbourne as correspondent, caused a sensation in its time. Although Norton lost the suit, he was given custody of their children and allowed to collect his wife's literary earnings.

Her writings included poems and novels; however, she is best-remembered for English Laws for Women in the Nineteenth Century (1854) and A Letter to the Queen (1855), both of which helped bring about improvement of the status of married women in England.