Levy was born in London in 1861 and died in 1889,
just a few months short of her 28th birthday. In
her brief life she wrote two novels, both well received,
and several volumes of poetry which explored the
changing role of Victorian women in the closing years
of the 19th century.
of A Shop, her
first novel, was published in 1888. Praised by Oscar Wilde who, reviewing it for Woman’s World,
thought it ‘admirably
done … clever and full of quick observation,’ her
little novel seemed to herald a brilliant career.
the story of four young ladies who, after the death
of their father, decide to open a photographic studio
in the heart of London’s bohemia (to the dismay of
their more priggish relatives) the book, like much
of Levy’s work, is concerned with the contradictions
besetting the ‘new’ Victorian woman who, in her quest
for independence finds herself constrained by anachronistic
social mores and conflicting values.
just two years before her tragic suicide, Romance
of A Shop, at times sweet and charming, has a
resonance that goes beyond its apparent innocence,
echoing an undertone of despair and hunger for a
liberation that, to Levy’s misfortune, came only
some years afterwards.