Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face — Daisy Ashford (1881-1972)

Margaret Mary Julia ‘Daisy’ Ashford was born on 7 April 1881 in Petersham, Surrey. At the age of nine, she wrote her first novel, The Young Visiters (or Mr Salteenas Plan), a comic story involving both class and romance in nineteenth-century England. Though Daisy wrote the novella in 1890, it was not published until 1919, at which time it gained immense popularity and was deemed a masterpiece, original spelling mistakes and all. The short book was received warmly by the public because of Daisy’s unique perspective on society seen through the eyes of a child, so much so that it was adapted into a play in 1920 and then into a musical in 1968. Although The Young Visiters was Daisy’s first book, it was not her first stab at story-telling. At the age of four, she began dictating stories to her father who would write them down for her.

Daisy Ashford. The Young Visiters. New York: George H. Doran Company, 1919.

Daisy ceased writing during her teenage years as her family moved around, and she began working as a secretary in London. Daisy married James Devlin and moved with him to Norfolk. After the publication of Visiters in 1919, several of her other stories were published the following year. But Daisy did not begin writing again until much later when she began her autobiography, which she would destroy before her death in 1972.

Perhaps the most fascinating note about Daisy’s career is her status as a child prodigy. Although some have criticized her early work as naïve and juvenile, it is not often that one becomes famous based on their work as a nine year old girl.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, born seventy-five years earlier than Daisy Ashford, displayed an even more exceptional aptitude for her craft at a remarkably early age. Elizabeth began writing poetry at the age of four and became one of the most revered female writers of the nineteenth century. Just as Daisy was creating stories with her family at an early age, Elizabeth Barrett Browning spent her childhood years creating poetry whenever she had the opportunity. At the age of twelve, Elizabeth wrote the following poem while riding in a carriage with her family to visit her sister who was recuperating at the beach. The last line of the poem presents an interesting twist. The Armstrong Browning Library holds the unpublished poem written in one of Elizabeth’s delicate notebooks.

The transcription follows:

Ye nymphs I know not all your names by rote
Bear to your King the cargo of my boat
And as you e Heavenly spirits light of Neptune’s Daughters
Hang on each wave & frolic on the waters
Pray Attend my prayer oh ye of birth divine
And let the talisman desired be mine
That I may not your sanction beg in vain
Oh let me riot in thy your wide domain
Ah bid your [Sire] not take some other whim
Attend my prayers! And teach me now to swim

Two young women with the ambition, dreams, and abilities to create such poignant and lasting works of art while still in their childhood are a testament to the power of imagination. These amazing women were able to create and share their art, overcoming the different obstacles they faced along the way, including trying to gain merit as female writers and being taken seriously  as children with profound thoughts to share.

Chicanya Njeh
Bethany Navarre
Melinda Creech

Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face — Charlotte Endymion Porter (1857-1942)

Charlotte Endymion Porter, originally named Helen Charlotte Porter, was born on January 6, 1857 in Towanda, Pennsylvania.  Charlotte adopted the middle name Endymion after a poem by John Keats.  In 1885 she graduated from Wells College in Aurora, New York.

Eight years later Porter became the editor of the journal Shakespeariana, where she met her life partner Helen Clarke.  Clarke submitted an article to Shakespeariana and Porter accepted it.  Their friendship was built upon their mutual love for Shakespeare and Robert Browning.

Porter and Clarke also founded the American Drama Society, and together they edited volumes of both Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poetry. Porter published a theatrical version of Robert Browning’s tragedy, The Return of the Druses, which she directed in 1903. She was one of the brightest literary critics and editors of her time.         Below is a signed copy of Porter’s script, featuring notes in the margin. The notes most likely were written there by a stage manager, as they list props and sound cues.

Charlotte Porter. Stage Version of Browning’s Tragedy: The Return of the Druses. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell & Company, 1902.

D. G. Brinton, “Facettes of Love From Browning,” in Poet-Lore, Vol. 1 (1889), pp. 25-26.

 In 1889 Porter and Clarke founded Poet Lore, a literary journal focused on Shakespeare, Browning, and comparative literature.  Their mission in establishing Poet Lore was to “bring Life and Letters into closer touch with each other…in a new spirit that considers literature as an exponent of human evolution.”  Although it was an American journal, it rarely featured any works written by Americans; therefore, it often introduced new writers and works to its American audience.  Poet Lore still exists today and is maintained by five editors who strive to keep the journal at the high standards set by Porter and Clarke emphasizing “openness to discovery” (  Poet Lore editor Genevieve DeLeon’s favorite quote from Porter comes from Porter reflecting on Poet Lore several years after its founding:

“Our standards were evolutionary and relative in principal in a day when the static and the has-been rather than the dynamic and coming-into-birth constituted the measure in criticism….We were champions then for what is still needed, it may be the standards that relate all aesthetic expression to evolving life.”

In 1903 Porter and Clarke sold Poet Lore and worked on many other projects together, including several editions of Browning’s poems, a six volume edition of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poetry, and a twelve volume “Pembroke” edition of Shakespeare.

Porter and Clarke committed to each other with a ring ceremony and lived together until Clarke died in 1926.  Porter continued living at their summer home in Maine until she passed away on January 16, 1942.  This poem from the first edition of Charlotte Porter’s book, “Lips of Music.” speaks about the island in Maine where she and Clarke spent their summers and where she eventually died at the age of 85.

Charlotte Porter. “Isle Au Hait” in Lips of Music. New York: Thomas Y. Cromwell & Company, 1910.

The Armstrong Browning Library has two letters written to Charlotte Porter, six books and articles by Porter, and numerous Browning volumes edited by her.

 Kimberly Dykema
Carly Connally
Melinda Creech

Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face — Mary Augusta Arnold Ward (1851-1920)

“You invite me to break the first law of storytelling, Miss Rose,” said the doctor, lifting a finger at her. “Every man is bound to leave a story better than he found it.”

  Mrs. Humphry Ward. Robert Elsmere.
London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1888, p. 63.

Mary Augusta Ward was an English novelist, journalist, philanthropist, and anti-suffrage leader who wrote under the name of Mrs. Humphry Ward. During her lifetime, she wrote three plays, nine non-fiction works, and twenty-five novels. Many of her novels depict contemporary theological and moral debates. Her most famous novel, Robert Elsmere, focuses on religious issues.

Mary Augusta Ward. Robert Elsmere. London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1888.

This novel was Ward’s most famed work due to the controversial “deconversion” of its main character from Anglican Christianity to “a liberal, antidogmatic theology.” The story was inspired in part by her own experience with the Victorian religious crisis and by the religious indecision of her father, Thomas Arnold. W. E. Gladstone, a prominent English politician and a fourtime Prime Minister, wrote a response to Ward’s work, noting that Mrs. Ward’s aim was to “expel the preternatural element from Christianity, to destroy its dogmatic structure, yet to keep intact the moral and spiritual results.”

Her social and political novels portray her conservative beliefs, concerning both liberalism and feminism. According to Judith Wilt, Professor of English Emerita at Boston College, Ward was concerned with “…the ideal of domesticity crossed by currents of personal ambition and clear-eyed impatience with the limitations of a woman’s life evident in the ideology of separate spheres.” Wilt continues stating, “As a young matron Ward was ‘all afire’ for women’s education…and she continued to see as part of the inherited ‘domestic’ territory to be legislated and run by women as well as men not only all branches of education but also all health and social service professions, and even “local government,” including school boards, municipal boards, and other offices and activities that had become gender-neutrally votable and electable by the 1880’s. For her, ‘domesticity’ included virtually all the national business.  When in her anti-suffrage campaigns she drew the line at giving women the vote for Parliament members it was partly a not-unhealthy impatience with what we might now call the fetishization of that object, and partly a curtsy before Empire, a hesitation before the international ministries for finance, heavy industry, and war.” (Judith Wilt, Behind Her Times: Transition England In The Novels Of Mary Arnold Ward, Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, p. 14.)

The Armstrong Browning Library owns forty-one volumes authored by Mary Ward, including Fenwick’s Career, which was published in London by Smith, Elder, & Co. in 1906. This edition was printed on hand-made paper. Only two hundred and fifty copies were for sale with each copy autographed by the author. The ABL’s copy is No. 36, and is signed “Mary A. Ward” on the first front leaf. The book tells the story about “a boorish, conceited, masterful young countryman…[whose] supreme longing is ‘to make a name for himself and to leave his mark on English art.”


Autograph by the author, Mary Augusta Ward, on the first front leaf of Fenwick’s Career, London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1906.

Fannie Browning, wife of Robert Barrett Browning, owned a copy of Amiel’s Journal (1896), which was translated by Mrs. Ward; Robert Barrett Browning, Robert and Elizabeth’s son, owned a copy of The Marriage of William Ashe (1905), with the author’s inscription. Although the Armstrong Browning Library does not own this book, it does have a copy of the same edition once owned by Robert Barrett Browning.

 Tiffany Huynh
Maegan Rocio
Michael Moreno
Melinda Creech

Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face — Margaret Fuller (1810-1850)

Male and female represent the two sides of the great radical dualism. But, in fact, they are perpetually passing into one another. Fluid hardens to solid, solid rushes to fluid. There is no wholly masculine man, no purely feminine woman.

  Margaret Fuller. From Woman in the Nineteenth Century. Boston: John P. Jewett, 1845.

 Dr. Charles Capper, Professor of History at Boston University, who has published a two volume biography of Margaret Fuller, suggested the above quotation.

Margaret Fuller, also known as Sarah Margaret Fuller, was a renowned journalist, pioneer feminist, and women’s rights activist. She is associated with the transcendentalist movement and taught at various girls’ schools during her younger years. Following her research at Harvard—where she was the first woman to study—she worked as a literary critic for Horace Greeley, publisher and editor of the New York Tribune, and her collected criticism is found in Papers on Literature and Art, 1846. Her chief work, Woman in the Nineteenth Century, 1845, is considered the first major feminist work in the United States. Her influence on the American feminist movement is unparalleled, and she continues to be remembered as a champion for human rights to this day.

Margaret was born on May 23, 1810, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her father, Timothy Fuller, a prominent Massachusetts lawyer, educated her scrupulously, but it wasn’t until 1819 that Fuller began her formal education at the Port School in Cambridgeport. She later attended the Boston Lyceum for Young Ladies in Groton in 1824. Fuller returned home two years later at the age of 16, and while at home she trained herself in several foreign languages, studied the classics, and read world literature. Her intellectual precociousness gained her the acquaintance of various Cambridge intellectuals. In 1833, Margaret’s father moved the family to a farm in Groton, Massachusetts. It was after this transition that she found herself isolated and forced to educate her siblings while also carrying out household tasks for her ailing mother.

 Margaret Fuller. Woman in the Nineteenth Century. Boston: John P. Jewett, 1855.

 In 1845 Margaret published her feminist classic, Woman in the Nineteenth Century.  This book, her chief work, stressed that men deliberately kept women in subordinate positions, and thus women had to help themselves toward independence. It was originally published in the transcendentalist magazine, The Dial, as “The Great Lawsuit. Man versus Men. Woman versus Women,” but it was expanded and published in book form in 1845 and reprinted in 1855. In addition to writing several critical reviews and essays, Fuller became active in various social reform movements. In 1846 she went to Europe as a foreign correspondent for the Tribune, and in England and France she was recognized as an outstanding intellectual.

During her travels, Fuller made her way to Italy in 1847. It was here that she met her husband Giovanni Ossoli. They became lovers, had a son in 1848, and were wed the following year. Fuller had supported the attempt to unify Italy as a Roman republic, but after the Pope was restored to power and the short-lived political experiment had failed, Fuller, her husband and their child fled to Florence in 1849. The next year they boarded a ship set for the United States, but due to a storm off Fire Island, New York, the ship never made it to port and they were lost at sea. Sadly, their bodies were never recovered.

Margaret Fuller Ossoli, The Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli. Boston: Phillips, Sampson and Company,  1852. Two volumes.

The Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli (1852) was published posthumously by her one-time friend and colleague Ralph Waldo Emerson, with James Freeman Clarke and William Henry Channing. Because Fuller’s friendship with Emerson had deteriorated, the book was heavily edited. Therefore her myriad accomplishments took a backseat to Emerson’s portrayal of her as a cold and snobbish old maid, rather than as the warm, loving personality her friends and acquaintances knew her to be.

The Armstrong Browning Library owns eight books by Margaret Fuller published in the nineteenth century, including several first editions and rare copies. Of particular importance is Conversations with Goethe in the last years of his life, translated from the German of Eckermann. By S.M. Fuller (1839), which was the first book in which Margaret Fuller’s name appeared.

Erica Heath
Kristyan Pak
Christina Fajardo
Melinda Creech

Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face — Caroline Sheridan Norton (1808-1877)

I have, as I said before, learned the English law piecemeal, by suffering under it. My husband is a lawyer, and he has taught it me, by exercising over my tormented and restless life every quirk and quibble of its tyranny; of its acknowledged tyranny; acknowledged, I say, not by wailing, angry, despairing women, but by Chancellors, ex-Chancellors, legal reformers and members of both Houses of Parliament.

Caroline Norton.  From A Letter to the Queen on Lord Chancellor Cranworth’s Marriage and Divorce Bill. London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1855.

 Dr. Kieran Dolin, professor of English and Cultural Studies at the University of Western Australia, has written several articles on Caroline Norton. He is particularly interested in Caroline Norton’s writings and her activism to reform the law relating to women in Victorian England. He suggested the quotation above.

Born on March 22, 1808, the third child of seven, Caroline Elizabeth Sarah Sheridan seemed destined to become an established writer.  Her mother was a novelist and her grandfather was a famous playwright, Richard Brinsley Sheridan.  Not surprisingly, the young Caroline expressed a knack for literature.  At age thirteen, she had already written her first booklet, The Dandies Rout. At Shalford boarding school in Surrey, George Norton noticed the beautiful Caroline, which resulted in their marriage in 1827.

Caroline and George Norton seemed an almost perfect couple. Caroline was beautiful and smart and George Norton was the brother of her friend, also a barrister, and a Member of Parliament.  However, her personal life soon became riddled with strife. To Caroline’s surprise, Norton turned out to be a drunk with a violent temper, and he often mismanaged money.  In English Laws for Women in the Nineteenth Century (1854), Caroline Sheridan Norton gives accounts of being beaten as early as two weeks into their marriage.  She writes about harsh experiences, such as having a hot tea-kettle purposely set on her hand.  Through it all, she was still able to publish her first poetic work titled The Sorrows of Rosalie: A Tale with Other Poems in 1829.  This work was well received by the public.  Despite the troubles, the marriage produced three sons named Fletcher, Brinsley, and William. Caroline was even beaten weeks before she gave birth to her third son William.

English law made it extremely hard to get a divorce, especially since Caroline had endured such harsh treatment for so long. After she was accused of having an affair with the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, George Norton became even more vicious.  He took both Melbourne and Caroline to court, but both were found innocent of adultery.  Although Caroline Norton was found innocent, she could not divorce George Norton, and the abuse continued.  Norton took away Caroline’s children, and the fight began.  Advocating for women’s rights became Caroline Norton’s primary concern.  She wrote a pamphlet titled “The Separation of Mother and Child,” which promoted The Infant Custody Act of 1839.  The more Caroline campaigned, the more she was able to get accomplished.  Caroline Norton is well-known for writing A Letter to the Queen which advocated for the rights of married women in 1855.  She also helped to pass acts such as the 1857 Matrimonial Act and the Married Woman’s Property Act (1870).  Caroline eventually got custody of her two living children after they were twenty-one.  Her success as an activist eventually led to her ability to divorce George Norton, but she did not remarry until after his death.  At the advanced age of sixty-nine, Caroline Sheridan married a Scottish politician named William Maxwell Stirling.  She only enjoyed three months of a blissful marriage before she died in 1877.

Caroline Norton. “The Invalid” in The Keepsake. London: Hurst, Chance, and Company, 1840.

Caroline Norton’s short story, “The Invalid,” published in the 1840 edition of The Keepsake, displayed above, tells the story of a young lady, Mariana, who is on her deathbed when her sister, Tersa, comes to visit. The story not only highlights education for women, but Norton also exposes the tragedy that can befall a woman who is wrongly in love. Educated by her uncle, Mariana learns to “lay a bridge stone by stone” between her mind and that of her learned uncle.  Norton further makes the claim that the best “education comes through free intercourse with superior and cultivated companions.” This focus on the education of women provides a major theme in the short story. Though Count Arnstein, a man who comes to live with Mariana and her uncle, dislikes her intellect at first, he quickly begins to love her for it. Consequently, Norton builds her case for a prominent role of women in politics through the character and competence of Mariana. In addition, a major theme of the short story is that of improper love. Mariana falls in love with Count Arnstein, and he reciprocates. However, after he tells her that he is married and begs her to accompany him to visit his wife, she is heartbroken and becomes very ill. She later recalls to Tersa just before her death, “It is that I have seen at one dreadful glance the shattering of earth’s best illusion.” Ultimately, Mariana dies alone and forgotten. Norton’s portrayal of Mariana’s demise is a strong social commentary on the lack of options for a woman without a husband or any prospects. The story she writes echoes much of her own experience.

The Armstrong Browning Library has seven nineteenth-century books authored by Caroline Norton, including this unusual copy of The Sorrows of Rosalie.

Caroline Norton.  “A Royal Christmas Gift to the Duchess of Clarence, Christmas 1828.” Autograph Manuscript, in The Sorrows of Rosalie: A Tale with Other Poems. London: J. Ebers, 1828.

This volume, with Norton’s poem inscribed on the front leaves, was presented to the Duchess of Clarence by August Fitz-Clarence, the illegitimate son of her husband, the Duke of Clarence. In June of the following year the Duke succeeded to the throne of England as William IV and the Duchess became Queen Adelaide.

                                                                     Nancy Gross
Bianca Arechiga
Mary Philippus

Melinda Creech

Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face continued…


In the fall semester of 2013, Dr. Kristen Pond, Assistant Professor of English at Baylor University, taught a class entitled “English 4370: ‘A Mob of Scribbling Women’: Women and the Novel 1740’s-1860’s.” The class title comes from a quotation from Nathaniel Hawthorne, an American novelist and short story writer responding to his publisher in 1855: “America is now wholly given over to a damned mob of scribbling women.” He, along with others, found the figure of the woman writer troubling in the nineteenth century. Dr. Pond’s course was organized around the social, economic, and political factors that began to reshape women’s role in society.

Recognizing the contribution that the class could make toward refreshing and extending the current exhibit, Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers A Voice and a Face, the class was invited to add their own research to the exhibit. The students, working as teams, selected a woman writer whose work is represented in the ABL’s collection, gathered interesting information about her, decided what to display and how to display it, prepared the labels for the exhibit, and wrote a blogpost about their woman writer. The blogs (soon to be posted) will focus on Caroline Sheridan Norton, Margaret Fuller, Mary Augusta Arnold Ward, Charlotte Endymion Porter, and Daisy Ashford.

The Armstrong Browning Library staff would like to thank the students for their interest in discovering the resources that the library has to offer and for their expertise in Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face.

Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face — Michael Field [Katherine Harris Bradley (1846–1914) and Edith Emma Cooper (1862–1913)]

Michael Field was the pen name used by Katherine Harris Bradley and her niece Edith Emma Cooper, who wrote together under the same pseudonym. Katherine Bradley became the legal guardian of her sister’s daughter, Edith Cooper, and the two eventually became lovers. Katherine published several works under the pseudonym Arran Leigh, and Edith published under Isla Leigh, before they eventually co-authored works of poetry and verse drama under the name Michael Field. The women were friends of Robert Browning (whom they called the “Old Gentleman”) and his sister, Sarianna.

Michael Field. The Father’s Tragedy. William Rufus. Loyalty or Love? London: George Bell, 1885.

This volume, inscribed “R. Browning Esq./ with sincere regards./ Michael Field./ June 8th 1885,” is a presentation copy and contains a note in Robert Browning’s hand and numerous penciled corrections to the text, presumably by the elder poet.

The ABL has thirty-two books written by Michael Field and published during the authors’ lifetimes, several being first editions or containing inscriptions. The Father’s Tragedy. William Rufus. Loyalty or Love? ([1885]), Long Ago (1889), Underneath the Bough: A Book of Verses (1893), and Attila, my Attila! A Play (1895) were part of the Brownings’ library. Sight and Song (1892) is the same edition as a volume of that work that was owned by Sarianna Browning.

Melinda Creech

Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face — Amy Judith Levy (1861–1889)

Amy Levy. “Philosophy” in A London Plane-tree, and Other Verse (1899)

 Amy Levy was a precocious feminist, reviewing Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh when she was only thirteen. She wrote lyric poems, dramatic monologues, essays, stories, and novels. Through her writings, she focused  attention on Jewish identity, feminist positions, and homosexual relationships. She struggled with “constitutional melancholy” and eventually committed suicide. The Armstrong Browning Library owns one title by Amy Levy. Logo from A London Plane-tree, and Other Verse. London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1889.

The volume owned by the ABL is a first edition, number 21 of 30 copies, signed by the publisher. An inscription on the recto of the leaf following the title-page states: “The proofs of this volume were corrected by the Author about a week before her death.”

Melinda Creech

Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face — Anne Isabella, Lady Ritchie, née Thackeray (1837 – 1919) Part 2

One of  the letters between Lady Ritchie and Robert Browning describes what promised to be an interesting lunch involving wild animals.

Letter from Anne Thackeray Ritchie to Robert Browning. 18 February [1885]

Anne Thackeray Ritchie makes this request to Robert Browning. “If you could come to lunch at 1:30 next Sunday we have a friendly lion tamer Capt. Speedy & some members of our family who would all—as you know—love (& honour too) to see you.”

Another envelope bearing Anne Thackeray Ritchie’s handwriting held an interesting drawing by Robert Browning.

A pencil sketch of Archbishop Stigant with crosier, signed “Roberti Browningii opus” is accompanied by an envelope annotated by Anne Thackeray Ritchie: “Bishop Stigand.” The image was drawn following a visit to see the Bayeux Tapestries with the Milsand family in September 1870 according to a letter from Laure Milsand to Anne Thackeray Ritchie, 14 March 1891.

Yet another inscription by Robert Browning thanks Miss Thackeray for a gift.

The Inn Album by Robert Browning (London, 1875)

Still another inscription by Robert Browning notes that this book of translations was given to him by Miss Thackeray and Hallam Tennyson, Alfred Lord Tennyson’s son.

Richard Claverhouse Jebb, Translations into Greek and Latin Verse (Cambridge, 1873).

The half-title page of this book bears this inscription by Robert Browning:

(The joint gift of Annie Thackeray and Hallam Tennyson:


x) καὶ μὴν Μάρων μοι πῶμ᾽ ἔδωκε, παῖς θεοῦ,
ὃν ἐξέθρεψα ταῖσδ᾽ ἐγώ ποτ᾽ ἀγκάλαις.

R B, Dec. 19. ’73: ὡς σαφέστερον μάθης.)

The lines are from Euripides, Cyclops, lines 141-42, p. 153 in Euripides Witzschel, Vol. 2 in Browning’s traveling Greek library. (Look for another blogpost soon about this unique collection item.) The lines refer to an exchange between Odysseus and Silenus. Oddysseus says: “What is more, Maron, the god’s own son, gave me the drink.” And Silenus replies: “The lad I once raised in these very arms?” It is followed by Robert’s comment in Greek: “to make my meaning clear, ” probably referring to the “x” he placed under Hallam Tennyson’s name and alluding to his close connection to Hallam. If Hallam is “the god’s own son,” does it also intimate that Tennyson is the god?

Melinda Creech

Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face — Anne Isabella, Lady Ritchie, née Thackeray (1837 – 1919)

My father [William Makepeace Thackeray, a nineteenth century English novelist] was always immensely interested by the stories of spiritualism and table-turning, though he certainly scarcely believed half of them. Mrs. Browning believed and Mr. Browning was always irritated beyond patience by the subject. I can remember her voice, a sort of faint minor chord, as she, lisping the “r” a little, uttered her remonstrating “Robert!” and his loud dominant baritone sweeping away every possible plea she and my father could make; and then came my father’s deliberate notes, which seemed to fall a little sadly — his voice always sounded a little sad — upon the rising waves of the discussion.

Anne Ritchie, “Robert & Elizabeth Browning” in Records of Tennyson, Ruskin, and Browning (London: Macmillan, 1892), pp. 191-2.

Dr. Elizabeth Jay, Emeritus Professor at Oxford Brookes University, who has written extensively on women writers and the interaction of religion and literature in the nineteenth century, suggested the above quotation which concerns the Brownings’ disagreements about spiritualism. She suggests it is typical of Anne Thackeray Ritchie’s ability to recall the small intimate details of her acquaintance with the Brownings and bring those experiences to life. Lady Ritchie shares her memories of three great writers of the Victorian period in this book.  The signature “E. FitzGerald, Oct. 1, 1892” appears on the front flyleaf of the Armstrong Browning Library’s copy of this book. Eliza Fitzgerald was a good friend of Robert Browning.

Anne Ritchie was the eldest daughter of William Makepeace Thackeray, a well-known Victorian novelist. Ritchie was well acquainted with many in the literary community and was Virginia Woolf’s step-aunt. Ritchie notably wrote biographical pieces on her contemporaries, including Tennyson, the Brownings, and Julia Margaret Cameron. The photograph above was taken by Ms. Cameron. Ritchie was also popular for her modernization of fairy tales, setting them in the nineteenth century. She published the stories in several volumes, including Five Old Friends and Bluebeard’s Keys.

The Armstrong Browning Library owns twenty-six nineteenth-century editions of Anne Thackeray Ritchie’s works, including rare editions of The Story of Elizabeth: A Tale (1864), To Esther, and Other Sketches (1869), Bluebeard’s Keys, and Other Stories (1874), Toilers and Spinsters, and Other Essays (1874), Records of Tennyson, Ruskin and Browning (1892), and Alfred, Lord Tennyson and his friends; A series of 25 portraits … from the negatives of Mrs. Julia Margaret Cameron and H. H. H. Cameron (1893).

The ABL also owns 110 letters in which Anne Thackeray Ritchie was a correspondent. Many of these letters are part of the Joseph Milsand Archive and are previously unpublished. Her manuscript of “From the Roundabout Papers” is also at the library.

Melinda Creech