Published online by Cambridge University Press: 25 October 2019
ON THE MORNING of her death on 16 February 1895, the journalist and novelist Camilla Crosland (1812–95) received an early copy of Chambers's Edinburgh Journal for 23 February containing her essay on ‘politeness.’ It was her last contribution to the famous weekly, ending an association that had begun in 1841. According to her autobiography, Landmarks of a Literary Life 1820–1892 (1893), Crosland's writing career, like that of many of her female contemporaries, began out of necessity. Born into the ‘cultivated middle classes,’ as she described them (Crosland 1893: 17), her education was cut short by her father's sudden death, when she was required to find a means of supporting herself and her mother. Having tried ‘governessing,’ she then turned to writing. A poem she published in Bentley's Miscellany caught the eye of Robert Chambers, of the Edinburgh publishing firm, and led to an invitation to write for the Journal and to a lifelong friendship with the Chambers brothers. The Countess of Blessington was another patron, offering her opportunities to write for the annual Book of Beauty and later to the Keepsake. Leitch Ritchie, editor of Friendship's Offering, appointed her to the unofficial post of subeditor in the early 1840s, for which she was remunerated.
Crosland was advantaged by having been born and based in London. Landmarks of a Literary Life recounts the literary parties and receptions to which she was invited, the most enjoyable of which were the ‘at homes’ of the novelist and editor Anna Maria Hall and her husband Samuel Carter Hall at their cottage ‘the Rosery’ in old Brompton, where writers, artists, and publishers crowded into the small rooms on Thursday afternoons. Writers’ knowledge of one another did not depend solely on these social occasions, as Crosland emphasised: ‘It must be remembered that literary people, of whatever grade, who know each other through the pen, never do meet as strangers’ (1893: 153). Her memoir illustrates the intimate world of literary London of the 1840s and 1850s, and the ease with which writers and artists of different backgrounds and degrees of seniority mingled. It also illustrates the ready acceptance of women writers in these circles.