Eliza Lynn Linton: The Lesbian Victorian Writer from Keswick



In celebration of LGBT+ History Month, our content creator Chimwemwe has put together a series of articles exploring Cumbria's hidden LGBT+ history. Over the coming weeks, we'll be sharing these stories with you.



Cumbria’s Hidden LGBTQ+ History.


Cumbria is a county rich with heritage. From Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter in the south to the ports of Whitehaven in the West and Carlisle Castle in the North of the county, Cumbria is an area of the UK that holds a strong heritage.


But little is known about our counties queer roots. This LGBTQ+ history month we invite you to celebrate little known LGBTQ+ figures in the place we call home and look at what impact they had in Cumbria.


Eliza Lynn Linton: The Lesbian Victorian Writer from Keswick who went under a male moniker to hide her sexuality.



Born in Crosthwaite Vicarage, Keswick in 1822 to Reverend James Lynn and Charolette Alicia Lynn, Eliza Lynn Linton was born into a large family of 12 children, with her mother dying 5 months after her birth.


With no formal education at the age of 23, Eliza sought a life outside of the Lakes and moved to London near the British Museum and worked hard to achieve her dream of becoming an independent writer.


Linton became the first female journalist in England to be paid a fixed salary and wrote everything from articles, novels to non-fiction books.


Both Eliza’s life and literary works have LGBTQ+ affiliations. For her Autobiography she went under the male moniker of ‘Christopher Kirkland’ in 1885. This is perhaps not just down to Eliza’s internalised homophobia, but because for most part of the 19th century, women writers unless they disguised their work with a male pseudonym expected critics to focus on their femininity and to be ranked against other women writers.


pseudonym /ˈsjuːdənɪm/ noun
a fictitious name, especially one used by an author. "I wrote under the pseudonym of Evelyn Hervey" (Oxford Languages)

Writing in the 19th was a field dominated by the patriarchy and many women wanted to publish without prejudice as women.



With Eliza becoming Christopher Kirkland and her husband becoming Esther Lambert in her Autobiography it raises questions of her attractions towards women and Linton’s unhappiness with her marriage to W.J. Linton. This hiding of her identity didn’t work and in later reviews and criticisms of her novel many presumed the accounts to be largely autobiographical.


In George Layard Soames’s biography of Linton, he quotes Mrs Rosa Campbell Praed observation of her: “She was such a curious mixture of both the man and the woman”.


Eliza published throughout her life until her death in 1898. Linton is described by Deborah T Mees in ‘Eliza Lynn Linton and the Rise of Lesbian Consciousness’ as having “unconscious sexual orientation as a lesbian” and having “inner conflicts about sexual identity” within her literature.


Although not celebrated as literary great Eliza is a significant LGBTQ+ figure who’s internalised homophobia resulted in novels such as Sowing the Wind, 1867 and The Rebel of the Family which contain female characters whose gender and sexuality raised LGBTQ+ reflections.




Acknowledgements: Cumbria’s queer heritage


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