Dinah Mulock was born on 20th April 1826 in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, the eldest child of nonconformist minister Thomas Mulock and his schoolmistress wife, also called Dinah. The young Dinah enjoyed the benefits of a good education, but her father’s fragile mental health meant that from the age of 13 she was obliged to help her mother run a private school. The family moved to London in 1839, where Dinah studied drawing and languages. When her mother died six years later, Thomas Mulock was unable to cope and deserted his three children.
Left with financial responsibility for her brothers, Dinah Mulock trained to become a governess – one of a very few professions available to women of her class at the time. Lacking any enthusiasm for the role, she instead turned to writing as a means of earning her living. This was a good choice, as Dinah Mulock enjoyed considerable success with early novels, such as The Ogilvies (1849), Olive (1850), and The Head of the Family (1852). Her most famous novel, John Halifax, Gentleman (1856), proved to be one of the nineteenth century’s best-selling books. In A Woman’s Thoughts about Women, Dinah Mulock addressed in non-fiction some of the themes that would dominate her novels, such as the need for self-sufficiency and the importance of avoiding loneliness.
Aged nearly forty, Dinah Mulock married George Lillie Craik, an accountant who was the nephew of the author who shared his name. From Dinah Craik’s literary earnings, they were able to build a house near Bromley in Kent, and there they brought up an adopted baby daughter, Dorothy. Alongside her novels, Craik also published essays, travelogues, poetry, and children’s stories.
Dinah Craik died suddenly of heart failure at home in 1887 while preparing for her daughter’s wedding. Craik is enjoying growing critical attention, especially for her radical portrayal of disabled characters in her novels Olive and A Noble Life.
Victorian Secrets publishes A Noble Life by Dinah Mulock Craik.