East Lynne – even the book cover is melodramatic!

We’ve just added the last page to the website and it features our Local Authors Collection of fiction, plays and poetry written by authors who were born or lived in the county.

Arguably the most famous of these is Mrs Henry Wood* (1814 – 1887), born Ellen Price in Worcester in 1814.

It was she who wrote the melodramatic novel, East Lynne, which proved to be a best seller upon publication in 1861. Its elaborate and implausible plot, centring around infidelity and double identities grabbed the public’s imagination and spawned numerous stage and film adaptations.

Its most famous line, “Gone! And never called me mother!” (variant: “Dead! Dead! And never called me mother!”) may never have been written by Mrs Wood, but certainly appears in later stage adaptations.

Like Mrs Gaskell or Fanny Trollope, her near contemporaries, Mrs Wood was driven to write to support her family.

Portrait of Ellen Wood by Reginald Easton (image thanks to Wikipedia)

In 1836 she had married Henry Wood, who worked in the banking and shipping trade in Dauphiné in the South of France, where they lived for 20 years. On the failure of Wood’s business, the couple and their four children returned to England, settling in Norwood in London, and Ellen turned to writing. This supported the family (Henry Wood died in 1866).

She wrote over 30 novels, many of which (especially East Lynne), enjoyed remarkable popularity.In 1867, After her husband’s death, Ellen purchased the English magazine Argosy, which had been founded by Alexander Strahan in 1865.  She wrote much of the magazine herself, and continued as its editor until her death in 1887, when her son Charles Wood took over.  At her death her estate was valued at over £36,000, then a very considerable sum.

In 1916, a monument to Mrs. Wood, an extraordinary lady, was installed in the North transept of Worcester Cathedral.

You can download an audiobook of East Lynne at LibriVox

Or you can read the book via Project Gutenberg