Caroline Norton, née Sheridan, was born in London, England, to the novelist Caroline Henrietta Sheridan and her husband Thomas Sheridan, son of the Irish playwright-manager Richard Brinsley Sheridan. Her older sister Helen Selina Blackwood was a songwriter and poet. In 1827, Caroline married George Chapple Norton, a lawyer and Member of Parliament with whom she had three sons, and is best known to history as Mrs. Norton. During the early years of the marriage, Caroline became a leading society hostess noted for her beauty and wit. Among her friends were Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Edward Trelawney, Mary Shelley, Fanny Kemble, Benjamin Disraeli, Lord Melbourne, and Prince Leopold, the future king of Belgium. She wrote plays and novels and made her literary debut with The Sorrows of Rosalie in 1830. In 1836, she separated from her husband after years of physical and mental abuse. She tried to support herself with her writing, but her husband claimed her earnings as his own, and prevented her from seeing her children. She began to campaign passionately for the enactment of laws granting rights to married and divorced women in Great Britain. Thanks largely to her efforts, Parliament passed the 1839 Custody of Infants Act, the 1857 Matrimonial Causes Act, and the 1870 Married Women's Property Act. She was a prolific writer who produced more than two dozen plays, novels, collections of poetry, and political pamphlets. A friend of the writer George Meredith, she served as the inspiration for Diana Warwick, the heroine of his 1885 novel Diana of the Crossways.