Biography of Sarah Green by Sarah Green
There is little information available about Sarah Green, the nineteenth-century novelist and miscellaneous writer. Therefore the following suggestions are merely thoughts and assumptions, based upon critical texts and the works of Sarah Green.
Sarah Green wrote the majority of her work during the years between 1808 and 1824. It is believed that she was brought up in Southern England, probably in London as she frequently writes with the pen name, ‘A Cockney’ and many of her novels are concerned with the difficulties of living and surviving in London. She possibly had a boarding school education as she defends and supports these institutions in Mental Improvements for a Young Lady (1793) (Copeland 1995; 76), whilst other novelists condemned them. During her writing career Green took an eight-year break from 1814 to 1822. There are many possible explanations for this, but the most likely is that she started a family during these years.
She was a well-travelled individual and several of her texts are set abroad. The Festival of St. Jago (1810) is set in Spain, whilst The Carthusian Friar (1814) is set in both France and Italy. Green also translated from German, which suggests that she might possibly have German connections or she may have lived in Germany for some time during her life. Her translations would have been an additional vocation for her.
Green was well read and used quotations from other literary works in her own novels. These writers include Milton, Shakespeare, Dryden, Pope, Young, Thompson and Byron, all ‘great’ writers who obviously influenced her and her writing. This was a technique used by many other authors at this time, most notably Ann Radcliffe (Kilgour 1995; 58). Another favourite was Fanny Burney who was extremely popular during this period.
Green has been identified as an early feminist, and this is reflected in her own character and personality. She is an independent female with clear thoughts and opinions, which is demonstrated in her attacks upon Horsley Curties in Romance Readers and Romance Writers – By way of Preface (1810). Green viciously calls him an 'intolerably dull and tiresome' individual who 'takes a circuitous course of three miles, instead of a direct road of one only' in his writing (Johnson 1928; 150-1). This preface demonstrates her feisty and out-spoken character and also indicates her anti-traditionalist beliefs, as she says 'but we, thank Heaven! Live in more enlightened days' (Johnson 1928; 150). Johnson inserts Green’s preface into this chapter entitled ‘The Follies of Fiction’, which contains various writer’s satirical comments about Romance novels. He names these authors ‘thoughtful writers’ (XXV).
Green’s personal character is indicated through the characterisation of her female heroines. They are invariably strong individuals who all earn personal reward and independence as a result of their determination and strength of character (Copeland 1995; 83). Green believes in females gaining financial and social independence. In The Fugitive (1815), Mrs Southby refuses the financial support of her father (Copeland 1995; 18). Not only does this support Green’s proto-feminist attitudes and beliefs, it also suggests that her independent female characters are a reflection of herself. Green is also seen to be a playful novelist, as reflected in some of her minor characters. Juliette de Floreal in The Carthusian Friar (1814) is a mischievous young lady who is feminine and beautiful, yet brave and courageous. This allows Green to emphasise the range of facades within the female character.
As a Minerva Press writer, Green was particularly aware of the hostile reality of nineteenth-century society. As with many of the other Minerva writers, she was particularly concerned with the economic and social constraints that were forced upon the lower-middle classes, the principal readers of William Lane publications (Copeland 1995; 78). Green frequently makes references to the materialistic concerns of society, particularly in The Reformist!!! (1810), where there is a focus upon the expenses involved in surviving in London society.
Green also had anxieties about poverty and lack of finances (Copeland 1995; 43), which may stem from her own personal experiences. Interestingly, she used these concerns positively, and adopted "a different perspective" that "emphasises the respectability of incomes and budgets at the lowest level of the middle class". She also "creates an economic foundation in fiction for the aspiring lower ranks of the middle class and … defines their place socially upwards" (Copeland 1995; 81-4). Therefore, it is highly possible that Green experienced both lower and middle-class society, yet remained aware of the realities of both environments. Therefore, the economy is a prime concern of Green and the mood of her novels appear to reflect the national economic state at the time of her writing. The Royal Exile (1810) is undoubtedly affected by the economic depression, whilst The Fugitive (1815) is definitely more optimistic and positive (Copeland 1995; 82).
Therefore, Green is an interesting lady who has firm beliefs and strong concerns, which are reflected in her writing. The likelihood is that these concerns stem from Green’s own personal experiences, as she highlights the hostility that exists within the hierarchical class structures. These issues are fundamental to the majority of her novels, and influence her authorial voice.