William Etty R.A. (1787-1849)

William Etty R.A. (1787-1849)

Mrs Caroline Norton, as Joan of Arc

oil on panel
18 x 15in. (46 x 38cm) in 18th Century carved giltwood broken corner frame, in the Kent style
William Stirling of Keir, later Sir William Stirling-Maxwell, 9th Bt. undated inventory no. 122

Lot Essay

Caroline (or Carolina) Elizabeth Sarah Sheridan (1808-1877) was a grand-daughter of Richard Brinsley Sheridan. She possessed great beauty which was matched by a first-rate intellect. In 1827, she married Hon. George Norton, a brother of 3rd Lord Grantley. Her husband, as a younger child and a barrister, had a small income and used his wife's connections to secure his appointment as a stipendary magistrate in 1831. Lord Melbourne, the Home Secretary who made the appointment, had a reputation as a womaniser and the Nortons' marriage was stormy. Mr. Norton broke with his wife and started an action for adultery against her and Lord Melbourne. In June 1836, they were acquitted. Despite attempts at reconciliation, the Nortons remained at loggerheads over money and their children.

From an early age, Mrs Norton had written and published her Sorrows of Rosaire with other Poems. This work was in Byron's style and was very popular. After her separation, she was able to support herself by writing, her skills, at one time, were able to earn her #1400 a year. Her finest poem, The Lady of La Grange (1863) and Old Sir Douglas (1867) were well-constructed rather than inspired. Her pamphlets dealt with questions about the social and legal position of women.
Mrs. Norton's legal position was a difficult one, for in 1853 her husband claimed her earnings. Their hostilities continued until his death in 1857. Her health was failing when, on 1st March, 1877, she married Sir William Stirling-Maxwell, who had long been a friend. Sadly Lady Stirling-Maxwell died on 15th June.

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