Constance Naden

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Constance Caroline Woodhill Naden

Brief Biography

Constance Caroline Woodhill Naden was born to an architect and his wife in 1858. Naden’s mother had died while giving birth to her, and her father, unable to maintain his practice and care for his infant daughter, sent her to be raised by her maternal grandparents, a normal course of action for a single father during this time period.  Following her education at a Utilitarian day-school, Naden went on to study at the Mason Science College in Birmingham where she excelled particularly in science and logic. Because of her education in science and logic, Naden had become a well-known, free-thinking secularist and a devotee of Herbert Spencer, a man who was known for his study of social Darwinism (

Naden’s first public work was a small collection of poetry published in 1881 titled Song and Sonnets of Springtime. This was then followed by her second and ultimately final collection in 1887 entitled A Modern Apostle; The Elixir of Life; The Story of Clarice; and Other Poems. Naden, upon the success and enjoyment of her first collection, viewed writing verse and poetry as “a mere amusement.” She had come to the realization that through her writing she could continue her education in the scientific field. Poems such as “Scientific Wooing” and others touched upon the works of Darwin, of which she greatly admired and respected.  As well, Naden contributed to several periodicals where she was able to further discuss evolutionary ideas, while focusing on the ethical implications of such ideas (

With the passing of her maternal grandmother in 1887 Naden inherited a fortune.  This provided her with the financial means to begin traveling throughout India.  However, her trip was cut short when she abruptly decided to return home in order to continue her writing and study of evolutionary ideals and interests. As well, she became involved in several feminist causes, such as political suffrage and female social equality.  However, by 1889 Naden had begun to grow ill, suffering from the effects of a fever she had acquired while on her travels in India. In an attempt to regain her health, Naden underwent a medical procedure but had instead succumbed to its effects. Naden subsequently passed away. Yet, what makes this more tragic was the fact that she was still very young: she was only thirty-one years old when she had died.  Despite her death, Naden left a great impression on the scientific community.  Her works are still admired today as she receives great praise and respect for her contributions to the scientific field of evolution. (


Primary Sources

Naden, Constance C. W. The Complete Poetical Works of Constance Naden. London: Bickers & Son, 1894.

Secondary Sources

"Constance Naden." Guelph University English Department. Oct 20/04.

Murphy, Patricia. "Fated Marginalization: Women and Science in the Poetry of Constance Naden." Victorian Poetry 40.2 (2002): 107-30.

Pionke, Albert D. " 'A Sweet Quod Erat Demonstradum': The Poetics of Parody in Constance Naden's 'Scientific Wooing'." CEAMagazine: A  Journal of the College English Association, Middle Atlantic Group 15 (2002): 3-11.

Smith, Philip E. II. "Constance Naden: Late Victorian Feminist Poet and Philosopher." Victorian Poetry (Morgantown WV) 15.1 (1977): 367-70.

Smith, Philip E. II, "Robert Leurns, Constance Naden and Hylo-Idealism."  2 Notes and Queries 5.1 (1978): 303-09.

Thain, Marion. "Love Mirror: Constance Naden and Reflections on a Feminist Poetics." English Literature in Transition 1880-1920 41.1 (1998):25- 41.

Thain, Marion. " 'Scientific Wooing': Constance Naden's marriage of Science and Poetry." Victorian Poetry 41.1 (2003): 151-69.

Willett, Perry. Victorian Women Writers Project. Library Electronic Text Resource Service (LETRS), Indiana University. Oct 20/04.


Available Images

Willett, Perry. Victorian Women Writers Project. Library Electronic Text Resource Service (LETRS), Indiana University. Oct 20/04.

Prepared by Kristin Livingston (2004).

Nipissing University
Contact:  Professor Ann-Barbara Graff
Department of English Studies
Last modified: October 12, 2004