Born in Midlothian, Margaret Wilson moved with her family to England as a child. In 1852 she married her cousin, the artist Frances Oliphant. By then she was already writing for Edinburgh's Blackwood publishers who printed many of her novels in serialised form in their magazine. She wrote her first book at sixteen and went on to produce around three hundred articles, fifty short stories, over ninety novels and twenty-five works of non-fiction. This drawing, made by Mrs Oliphant's niece, confirms a contemporary description of the writer 'her appearance was not striking, for she was a little woman, with nothing special to distinguish her except a pair of piercing black eyes'.