Charlotte Yonge (1823-1901) Novelist

Charlotte Yonge in her garden in later life

Charlotte Mary Yonge the novelist was born on the 11th of August 1823 in Otterbourne, Hampshire and lived in the village her entire life.  Her father William Crawley Yonge had left the army to to move to a small estate in the village and took up the roles of churchwarden and magistrate.  Charlotte was educated by her father who believed in higher education for women and he taught her Latin, Greek and maths and arranged for tutors to instruct her in modern languages and botany.  Charlotte was devoted to the church and started teaching Sunday School while still a child and continued this activity, as well as teaching scripture daily in the village school, until she was seventy‑one.  She attended services morning and evening, every day, in Otterbourne Church throughout her life.

A big influence in Charlotte's life was the Reverend John Keble, a founder of the Oxford Movement who became the vicar of nearby Hursley and Otterbourne in 1835.  Keble was a founder of the Oxford Movement, a group within the Church of England which stressed the Catholic heritage of the church, and worked to reduce what they saw as increasing secular influences within the Church of England.

Charlotte wrote her first book in 1848 and during her life time had around 160 books published, much of the income received from the books going to charitable causes.  The stories and characters reflected her views on Christian family values and they helped further the word and cause of the Oxford Movement.  One of her most successful novels was The Heir Of Redclyffe, first published in 1853. Charlotte also used her position to encourage writing by others as a founder and editor of The Monthly Packet a magazine which targeted a readership of British Anglican girls but ultimately reached a wider audience.

title page of Heir of Redclyffe
The title page from a 1904 edition of The Heir of Redclyffe

In 1854 Charlotte Yonge's father died and when, four years later her younger brother married, she moved with her mother to Elderfield, a house further down the main road through Otterbourne from her family home.  In 1868 a new parish was formed near Otterbourne from the the villages of Eastley and Barton and Charlotte donated £500 towards the new parish church.  She was asked to choose which of the two villages the parish should be named after and chose Eastley, but decided that it should be spelt Eastleigh as it looked more modern.  Charlotte published her last book in 1900 and died on March 24, 1901, and was buried in Otterbourne churchyard at the foot of the memorial cross to John Keble.