Mrs Margaret Oliphant née Wilson (1828-97) was born in Scotland, where her father was a bank clerk; when she was 10 the family moved to Liverpool. She had no formal education, but read widely and was encouraged to write by her mother, publishing her first novel when she was 21. In 1852 she married her cousin Frank Oliphant, living at different times in Edinburgh, London and Italy, but settled in Windsor after her husband’s death in 1859. Her life was overshadowed by domestic tragedy (only two of her five children survived into adulthood): it was because she had financial responsibility both for her own family and for her brother’s children that she became one of the most prolific of all the great Victorian novelists, writing nearly one hundred novels of which Chronicles of Carlingford (1863-76) was her best-known work, numerous non-fiction books, and many articles for Blackwood’s magazine. The two novellas in this volume, The Mystery of Mrs Blencarrow and Queen Eleanor and Fair Rosamond, were published in 1890 and 1886.