The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

February 20, 2017

February 20, 1919

Anne Isabella Ritchie [née Thackeray], Lady Ritchie, (June 9, 1837 to February 20,1919) was the daughter of William Thackeray so her eminence in late Victorian society is not surprising. She wrote novels. Miss Angel (1875), Miss Williamson's Divagations (1881), Mrs. Dymond (1885) are just a few titles; she was prolific, writing biography and criticism also. 

According to her Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry:

Among her obituaries, one of the most evocative is that contributed to the Times Literary Supplement by her stepniece Virginia Woolf (who also drew her as Mrs Hilbery in Night and Day) Although her novels are largely forgotten, posterity will remember her both as the diligent custodian of her father's memory (her biographical prefaces to the 1911 Centenary Edition of his works, collected as The Two Thackerays, 1988, are of lasting value) and as a vivid memorialist-roles which frequently, as in the autobiographical Chapters from some Memoirs (1894), overlap. A mass of surviving correspondence, much of it unpublished, confirms her centrality to the late-Victorian literary scene.

In Lady Ritchie's volume, Some Memoirs (1894) we have a charming picture of her childhood pets. She  starts by referencing her sister Harriet Marian (1840–1875).

My little sister had a menagerie of snails and flies in the sunny window-sill; these latter, chiefly invalids rescued out of milk-jugs, lay upon rose - leaves in various little pots and receptacles. She was very fond of animals, and so was my father—at least he always liked our animals. Now, looking back, I am full of wonder at the number of cats we were allowed to keep, though De la Pluche, the butler, and Gray, the housekeeper, waged war against them. The cats used to come to us from the garden, for then, as now, the open spaces of Kensington abounded in fauna. My sister used to adopt and christen them all in turn by the names of her favourite heroes; she had Nicholas Nickleby, a huge gray tabby, and Martin Chuzzlewit, and a poor little half-starved Barnaby Rudge, and many others. Their saucers used to be placed in a row on the little terrace at the back of my father's study, under the vine where the sour green grapes grew— not at all out of reach; and at the farther end of which was an empty greenhouse....

Anne Thackeray Ritchey's little sister grew up to marry Leslie Stephen; Harriet was his first wife.

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