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Abstract and Keywords

This chapter uses Margaret Oliphant’s work on a biography of the deposed Church of Scotland preacher Edward Irving (1792–1834) as a case study in the professionalization of Life writing in the nineteenth century. It points to some of the literary developments and fashions that made biography popular despite its tendency to over-respectful, hyper-respectable treatment of its subjects. It charts some of the challenges and opportunities biographical evidence and research afforded, including the chance to probe the conventions of gender. It argues that biography offered a space in which authors—including authors outside the academy—could participate in the writing of the past and in the representation of local and national identities, as well as in the ongoing discussion about heroes and their role in Victorian culture.

Keywords: authorship, biography, evangelical, hero, Irving, letters, Life writing, memoirs, Oliphant, Scotland

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