Devoney Looser is Regents Professor of English at Arizona State University and the author or editor of 10 books on literature by women, including The Making of Jane Austen. Her most recent book, Sister Novelists: The Trailblazing Porter Sisters, Who Paved the Way for Austen and the Brontës (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2022), is partly based on research she conducted at The Huntington on the British novelist Jane Porter (1775–1850) and sister and fellow novelist Anna Maria Porter (1778–1832).
During their lifetimes, the Porter sisters, separately and together, published 26 books, including groundbreaking historical novels that were bestsellers in their day. Looser’s joint biography of the sisters explores the social position of women writers in 19th-century Britain and examines the Porters’ posthumous reputation.
The Huntington’s Jane Porter Papers document her literary output, including drafts of works and correspondence. It features family correspondence that describes life among the gentry and literary figures during the Regency and early Victorian eras, illuminating the social customs and traditional roles of women. The letters also reflect the family’s dire financial straits and the struggles they endured to maintain their expected and desired place in society. The following excerpt comes from Looser’s prologue to Sister Novelists.