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.

July 9, 2017

July 9, 1837

Anne Thackeray Ritchie (June 9, 1837 to February 26, 1919), daughter of William Makepeace Thackeray, was a writer. The Victorian web places her in this context:

Anne Isabella.... Thackeray Ritchie .. a beloved step-aunt of Virginia Woolf, was a significant intellectual figure of her time. She and her younger sister, Harriet Marian (“Minny”) Thackeray Stephen (1840-1875), lived among Victorian literary society. Annie was well-acquainted with a number of the great names of British literature, including Thomas Carlyle, Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot, Edward FitzGerald and Henry James. Brought up in France and England together with her sister Minny, Annie was her father’s closest companion until his death. Although her literary talent was inferior to her father’s, Annie became a recognised author. She published five domestic novels, of which Mrs. Dymond (1885) is her most significant work. She also modernised classical fairy tales, such as Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and Sleeping Beauty, setting them in the Victorian time, and replacing magical elements for realistic ones. In her fiction Annie provided a rather mild picture of Victorian domestic life, but she did not avoid showing the restricted condition of women in Victorian society.

Over the course of her life, Annie wrote several diaries, journals and lots of letters in which she described, among other things, her unconventional upbringing and relations with her famous father. Her literary formation started when she was still a teenager and her father dictated ... portions of his works. At the age of 23 she published her first article, “Little Scholars”, in the Cornhill Magazine, edited by her father. In 1862, she published in the Cornhill, under the editorship of George Lewes, her first novel, The Story of Elizabeth, which received high acclaim from readers. For a number of years Annie published almost exclusively in that magazine. After Minny’s death at only thirty-five, in 1875, from complications related to the premature birth of her second child, Annie helped her sister’s widowed husband Leslie Stephen in [the] upbringing of his first child, Laura. In 1877, Annie married her cousin, Richmond Ritchie (1854-1912), an undergraduate at Cambridge, who was 17 years her junior. They had two children; Hester, born in 1878, and William, born in 1883. Alfred Tennyson’s son, Lionel, was best man at Annie’s wedding.

Chapters from Some Memoirs
 (1894) is the title of a book of her recollections and we include below a section on her childhood pets:

My father used to write in his study at the back of the house in Young Street. The vine shaded his two windows, which looked out upon the bit of garden, and the medlar tree, and the Spanish jessamines of which the yellow flowers scented our old brick walls. I can remember the tortoise belonging to the boys next door crawling along the top of the wall where they had set it, and making its way between the jessamine sprigs. Jessamines won't grow now any more, as they did then, in the gardens of Kensington, nor will medlars and vine trees take root and spread their green branches; only herbs and bulbs, such as lilies and Solomon seals, seem to flourish, though I have a faint hope that all the things people put in will come up all right some centuries hence, when London is resting and at peace, and has turned into the grass-grown ruin one so often hears described. Our garden was not tidy (though on one grand occasion a man came to mow the grass), but it was full of sweet things. There were verbenas—red, blue, and scented; and there were lovely stacks of flags, blades of green with purple heads between, and bunches of London Pride growing luxuriantly; and there were some blush roses at the end of the garden, which were not always quite eaten up by the caterpillars. Lady Duff Gordon came to stay with us once (it was on that occasion, I think, that the grass was mowed), and she afterwards sent us some doves, which used to hang high up in a wicker cage from the windows of the schoolroom. The top schoolroom was over my father's bedroom, and the bedroom was over the study where he used to write..... 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 ornamented by the busts of my father as a boy, and of a relation in a military cloak

One of my friends—she never lived to be an old woman—used to laugh and say that she had reached the time of life when she loved to see even the people her parents had particularly disliked, just for the sake of old times. I don't know how I should feel if I were to meet one agreeable, cordial gentleman, who used to come on horseback and invite us to all sorts of dazzling treats and entertainments, which, to our great disappointment, my father invariably refused, saying, "No, I don't like him; I don't want to have anything to do with him." The wretched man fully justified these objections by getting himself transported long after for a protracted course of peculiarly deliberate and cold-blooded fraud. On one occasion a friend told me he was talking to my father, and mentioning some one in good repute at the time, my father incidentally spoke as if he knew of a murder that person had committed. "You know it, then!" said the other man. "Who could have told you?" My father had never been told, but he had known it all along, he said; and indeed he sometimes spoke of this curious feeling he had about people at times, as if uncomfortable facts in their past history were actually revealed to him. At the same time I do not think anybody had a greater enjoyment.

Anne Thackeray Ritchie had a graceful prose and, as we see above, an interesting topic.

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