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Anne Thackeray Ritchie. Munnelly, Lindsay Marie.
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Anne Thackeray Ritchie

Lindsay Munnelly

Anne's birth was a strange one: as her mother was about to give birth, the doctor recommended by her paternal grandmother proved so incompetent that Thackeray was forced to rush out and find a replacement. He was just beginning his literary career when Anne was born; as a result, the family was poor for most of her childhood. Their second child, Jane Thackeray, died at 8 months, and after the birth of Harriet Marian ("Minnie") in 1840, their mother, Isabella, began to suffer from depression. While on holiday in Margate, Isabella nearly drowned her eldest daughter in the sea, but then changed her mind and pulled Anne back out of the water. After a suicide attempt on the way to Ireland (when she threw herself into the sea), Isabella spent two years traveling with Thackeray to find a cure for her condition. She would eventually be placed in a house near Paris until her death in 1894, outliving her husband by thirty-one years. Meanwhile, he himself began to suffer from a stricture of the urethra that would plague him for the rest of his life.

While their parents were traveling, and for four years afterward, Anne and Minnie lived in Paris with their paternal grandparents, Major and Mrs. Henry Carmichael-Smyth. The beginning of her Memoirs details this period, including her grandmother’s evangelical beliefs and her own experiences growing up in France. She would later draw on this time for two of her novels, The Story of Elizabeth and The Village on the Cliff. In 1846, Thackeray returned to his children, and the three of them settled in a house on Young Street, Kensington Square. He became very close with his daughters, particularly Anne, who became his amanuensis, or scribe, as his health continued to deteriorate; in 1851 he wrote to a friend that "Anny is a fat lump of pure gold—the kindest dearest creature as well as a wag of the first order. It is an immense blessing that Heaven has given me such an artless affectionate companion" (Colby 91). He encouraged her literary aspirations and published her first piece, “Little Scholars,” in Cornhill Magazine, which he then edited, in 1860.

Anne was deeply affected by her father's sudden death by an unexpected stroke in 1863. In the last years of his life, he had taken his daughters on several trips abroad (in her Unwritten Memoirs, Anne mentions their trip to Italy in the winter of 1853) and introduced them to much of his literary and social circle. Even after their father's death, the Thackeray girls remained close to his friends; and after their grandmother’s death in 1864, Anne and Minnie settled in a small house at Brompton, supported by their inheritance of £20,000. Anne's literary career, first established with her father's help, was firmly established in the 1860s. The Story of Elizabeth was serialized in Cornhill in 1863 and became her first successful novel. In the years after that, she published The Village on the Cliff (1867) and Old Kensington (1873). Among Anne's admirers, one of the most notable was American author Henry James, who mentions The Story of Elizabeth in his essay, “The Art of Fiction” (1884).

Anne faced tragedy again in 1875 with the death of her younger sister. In 1867, Minny had married Leslie Stephens, the writer-scholar (and future editor of the Dictionary of Literary Biography) who moved into the sisters' Brompton house upon their marriage. After Minny's death, Anne and Leslie continued to live together despite their completely dissimilar personalities, partly for the sake of Leslie and Minnie's mentally handicapped daughter, Laura. In 1877, Anne married her second cousin, Raymond Thackeray Ritchie. He would eventually work at the India Office after graduating from Cambridge, and ultimately became the undersecretary of state for India. But he was seventeen years her junior. The marriage shocked her social circle as well as her brother-in-law, who reportedly discovered the two on the couch of Anne's sitting-room. With Ritchie, Anne had two children, Hester and William. However, Anne's irresponsible spending habits, which had plagued her father as well as her husband, eventually forced the family to move to his mother's house in 1886.

In addition to becoming a serious—though somewhat erratic—professional writer, Anne also cultivated an interest in photography and art. Her only historical novel, Miss Angel (1875), was inspired by the paintings and life of Angelica Kaufmann. In 1862, she made the first of many trips to the Isle of Wight (England's largest island, located in the English Channel, just south of Southampton and Portsmouth) as the guest of photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, of whose circle she quickly became a member. It included author, fellow photographer, and mathematician Lewis Carroll, and Alfred, Lord Tennyson, who became a close friend. In 1876, Anne contributed a memoir to a book of photographic portraits about Tennyson and his circle, taken by Cameron. In that same year, Anne and Raymond spent a summer near the home of John Ruskin, and the two became friends. Her book on Ruskin, Tennyson, and the Brownings is considered a valuable primary source on these figures.

Anne spent much of the 1890s writing memoirs. The culminating project of this period of her life was a series of longer introductions to her father's works, published in 1897 and 1898. Though Thackeray had ordered that no biography of him should be written, through her introductions Anne was able to produce an impression of her father's domestic life, partially as a response to harsh criticisms that had been leveled against him. Her husband died unexpectedly in 1912, and in 1918 she and her daughter moved to the Isle of Wight. She died there on February 26, 1919.

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