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Sue Brown (Oxford and Toronto): Julia Wedgwood
May 8, 2024 5:00 pm UK time


Julia Wedgwood (1833-1913) was a leading female Victorian non-fiction writer whose books and many articles covered an exceptionally wide range including biography, history, literary criticism, philosophy, theology and evolutionary sciences.  She was also a campaigning feminist who knew many of the leading cultural figures of her age including Robert Browning, who she might have married, Thomas Carlyle, Elizabeth Gaskell, Harriet and James Martineau, George Eliot, Frances Power Cobbe, Victoria Welby and the young E. M. Forster as well as her aunt and uncle, Emma and Charles Darwin.

Sue Brown, who recently published the first biography of her (Julia Wedgwood, the Unexpected Victorian, Anthem Press 2022) will focus on her developing reactions to Darwin’s work. Her initial enthusiasm for On the Origin of Species continued with her interest in Darwin’s views on sexual selection in The Descent of Man but criticism of his destructive influence in a hostile review of his posthumous biography written by his son, Frank. Sue Brown will consider why Wedgwood’s views took this atypical course and how it meshed with her feminism and dialectical view of the course of world history.


Sue Brown reads history at Oxford and Toronto Universities specialising in nineteenth century Britain. She was a civil servant for thirty years including time in Brussels, Washington DC and as Head of Arts in what became the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. She has published biographies of Joseph Severn, the artist who went with the dying Keats to Rome, Paul Asciak, the Maltese operatic tenor and teacher, and Julia Wedgwood, as well as many articles on Gladstone, Severn, Browning, Julia Wedgwood, and Harriet Martineau. 

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