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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Anne Thackeray Ritchie (1837–1919)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
THE FEMININE quality in Thackeray’s genius, which saved his unerring comprehension of human nature from harshness, seems detached and given complete embodiment in the writings of his daughter, Anne Thackeray Ritchie. Not that these are lacking in strength, nor in evidences of keen perception; but they are steeped in the mellow atmosphere of an exquisite womanliness. They are feminine in the highest and completest sense of the word. They contain moreover a quality lacking to the works of the younger generation of writers,—that of nobility, of high breeding; the spirit indeed of one whose life from her childhood up has been spent among the true aristocracy of mind and of character, and whose sensitive soul responded wholly to gracious influences.  1
  Anne Isabella Thackeray (Ritchie), the daughter of William Makepeace Thackeray, was born in London. Her childhood was spent partly in Kensington,—whose quaintness she has immortalized in her most characteristic novel,—partly on the continent with her grandparents. She grew up in London as her own heroine Dolly grew up, “like a little spring flower among the silent old bricks.” Her girlhood was spent in association with her father and his circle of friends; which included indeed the cream of England’s true gentry. Never did a little lady grow into womanhood in a more harmonious environment.  2
  In 1877 Miss Thackeray married her cousin, Richmond Thackeray Ritchie. In 1860 her first story, ‘Little Scholars in the London Schools,’ had appeared in the Cornhill Magazine, of which her father was editor. Unpretentious as it was, it revealed the author’s dominant qualities: her appreciation of the beautiful and dramatic elements which may lie hidden in obscure lives, and in the experiences of commonplace people; her genial sympathy, the rare charity and truthfulness of her spirit. It revealed, moreover, the genuineness of her literary gift. Her simple and strong English belonged to no “school.” It was that of one who had drunk deep at the undefiled wells of the great Masters of the tongue.  3
  In ‘Old Kensington,’ published in 1873, her gifts become fully manifest. It would be difficult to overrate the charm of this novel of gentlefolk, living out their simple lives in that quaint quarter of London where the author’s own girlhood was passed, and whose old-fashioned beauties (many of them now vanished) she depicts with the clear memory of love. The odor as of lavender haunts each chapter of this book; whose fine, clean atmosphere removes it, as the East from the West, from the neurotic vulgarities which in the present day have debased the beautiful art of fiction. To read a novel like ‘Old Kensington’ is to come at once into good society. The book is remarkable, moreover, for its depiction of human nature, and of child nature; and for its exquisite bits of description, like some little warm Dutch landscapes:—
          “As days go by, Dolly’s pictures warm and brighten from early spring into summer-time. By degrees they reach above the table, and over and beyond the garden roller. They are chiefly of the old garden, whose brick walls seem to inclose sunshine and gaudy flowers all the summer through; of the great Kensington parks, where in due season chestnuts are to be found shining among the leaves and dry grasses; of the pond where the ducks are flapping and diving; of the house which was little Rhoda’s home. This was the great bare house in Old Street, with plenty of noise, dried herbs, content, children without end, and thick bread-and-butter. There was also cold stalled ox on Sundays at one.”
  4
  Scattered through the book are wise comments on the mysteries of life, worthy of Thackeray’s daughter, who was too much of a woman and of an artist ever to change her broad morality into the moralizing spirit.
          “To hate the Devil and all his works is one thing; but to-day, who is the Devil and which are his works is another.”
  “Dolly was true to herself; and in those days she used to think that all her life she would be always true, and always say all she felt. As life grows long, and people living on together through time and sorrow and experience realize more and more the complexities of their own hearts, and sympathize more and more with the failings and sorrows of others, they are apt to ask themselves with dismay, if it is a reality of life to be less and less uncompromising as complexities increase, less true to themselves as they are more true to others.”
  5
  In 1873 and 1874 Miss Thackeray also published a number of short stories and sketches: ‘Toilers and Spinsters,’ ‘Bluebeard’s Keys,’ etc. In 1875 appeared a novel, ‘Miss Angel,’ of which the heroine is Angelica Kaufmann. In the same year she edited ‘The Orphan of Pimlico, and other Sketches, Fragments, and Drawings,’ by her father. Her life of Madame de Sévigné, in the ‘Foreign Classics for English Readers’ series, appeared in 1881; and in the same year she published another novel, ‘Miss Williamson’s Divagations.’ Later, ‘Chapters from Some Unwritten Memoirs’ was published. This book of personal reminiscences is delightful, for the glimpses it affords the reader of the Thackeray household, and of the rare guests who gathered there from time to time. One of the prettiest pictures is that of a child’s party at Dickens’s house: of the little Misses Thackeray in plaid sashes and bronze shoes, of Dickens’s little daughters in white sashes and white shoes; of the supper table presided over by Mr. and Mrs. Dickens; of the innumerable small boys who swarmed on the staircase, and who gave three cheers for Thackeray when he appeared in the hall to take his little girls home. There is a humorous picture of Charlotte Brontë dining with Thackeray and his family: a number of his intimate friends were invited to meet her afterwards, and hopes of brilliant conversation ran high; but the little shy author took refuge with the family governess, an awful gloom like a London fog settled upon the company, and Thackeray in despair went off to his club.  6
  In her ‘Records of Tennyson, Ruskin, and Browning,’ Mrs. Ritchie has given to the world pictures of these great men drawn by the hand of a loving and understanding friend. Like her other books, it is instinct with the charm of her sympathy. Her true, pure, and sweet spirit has left a precious imprint upon the world of letters and of society. She is loved and will be long remembered, not as Thackeray’s daughter alone, but for her own inherent qualities of true greatness.  7
 
 
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