1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Norton, Caroline Elizabeth Sarah

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NORTON, CAROLINE ELIZABETH SARAH (1808–1877), afterwards Lady Stirling-Maxwell, English writer, was born in London in 1808. One of the three beautiful granddaughters of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, daughters of his son Thomas, the “three Graces” of London society in the reign of George IV., she began to write before she was out of her teens. Her two sisters Helen and Georgina became respectively Lady Dufferin and duchess of Somerset. Lady Dufferin described the sisters to Disraeli with characteristic modesty. “Georgey's the beauty,” she said, “and Carry's the wit, and I ought to be the good one, but I am not.” At the age of seventeen, Caroline published a merry satire, The Dandies' Rout, illustrated by herself, and full of girlish high spirits and wit. Her first essay in serious verse was made in 1829 with The Sorrows of Rosalie, the next in 1830 with The Undying One, a version of the legend of the Wandering Jew. She made an unfortunate marriage in 1827 with the Hon. George Norton, borther of lord Grantley. After three years of protests on her part and good promises on his, she had left his house for her sister's, had “condoned” on further good promises, and had returned, to find matters worse. The husband's persecutions culminated in 1836 in an action brought against Lord Melbourne for seduction of his wife, which the jury decided against Mr Norton without leaving the box. The case against Lord Melbourne was so weak that it was suggested that Norton was urged to make the accusation by Melbourne's political enemies, in the hope that the scandal would prevent him from being premier when the princess Victoria should succeed William IV. In 1853 legal proceedings between Mrs Norton and her husband were again entered on, because he not only failed to pay her allowance, but demanded the proceeds of her books. Mrs Norton made her own experience a plea for addressing to the queen in 1855 an eloquent letter on the divorce laws, and her writings did much to ripen opinion for changes in the legal status of married women. George Meredith, in Diana of the Crossways, used her as the model for his “Diana.” Mrs Norton was not a mere writer of elegant trifles, but was one of the priestesses of the “reforming” spirit; her Voice from the Factories (1836) was a most eloquent and rousing condemnation of child labour. The Dream, and other Poems appeared in 1840. Aunt Carry's Ballads (1847), dedicated to her nephews and nieces, are written with charming tenderness and grace. Later in life she produced three novels, Stuart of Dunleath (1851), Lost and Saved (1863), and Old Sir Douglas (1868). Mrs Norton's last poem was the Lady of La Garaye (1862), her last publication the half-humorous, half-heroic story of The Rose of Jericho in 1870. She died on the 15th of June 1877. Mr Norton died in 1875; and Mrs Norton in the last year of her life married Sir W. Stirling-Maxwell.

See The Life of Mrs Norton, by Jane G. Perkins (1909).