Barclay, Florence Louisa (1862–1921)

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Barclay, Florence Louisa (1862–1921)

English author of popular romances, including The Rosary, which has gone through more than 20 editions. Name variations: (pseudonym) Brandon Roy. Born Florence Louisa Charlesworth on December 2, 1862, in Limpsfield, Surrey, England; died on March 10, 1921; daughter of Reverend Samuel Charlesworth; niece ofMaria Charlesworth (a children's author); sister of Maud Ballington Booth (1865–1948); married Reverend Charles W. Barclay, in 1881; children: six daughters and two sons.

Selected works:

The Wheels of Time (1908); The Rosary (1910); The Following of the Star (1911); The White Ladies of Worcester (1917).

The middle of three sisters, Florence Charlesworth was born in her father's rectory in 1862. Seven years later, Reverend Samuel Charlesworth moved his family to the London parish where Florence was raised and schooled. During an 1879 visit to Belstead, she was introduced to Reverend Charles Barclay, whom she married two years later. Florence was 19 when she moved to Barclay's vicarage in Hertford, Hertfordshire. On the couple's honeymoon in Palestine, they believed themselves to have been led to the true mouth of Jacob's Well, and the spiritual discovery provided Barclay fodder for a lecture tour to the United States with her sister Maud Ballington Booth .

Daily life was filled with children—the Barclays had eight—and church business such as Bible readings. Generally believed to be psychic, Barclay was said to "charm birds" from the trees and find lost things. For a nine-month period in 1905, she became bedridden after a bike ride was said to have overtaxed her heart. Already a published author, Barclay's first book had been published in 1891, under the pseudonym Brandon Roy. Now, during her convalescence, she wrote The Wheels of Time, the first of her romances, published in 1908, and The Rosary, published in 1910. The Rosary, which sold 150,000 copies in its first year, was only mildly more successful than The Following of the Star published in 1911. Another book The Mistress of Shenstone (1910) was filmed with Pauline Frederick (1883–1938). Over the next decade, Barclay produced a book a year, even in 1912, when she suffered a cerebral hemorrhage from a blow to the head. Amazingly, a second blow by an oar, suffered while boating, was credited with curing her.

Florence Barclay died on March 10, 1921, at age 58, under anesthetic preparatory to surgery. At the time of her death, The Rosary had sold more than one million copies. A biography, The Life of Florence L. Barclay: By One of Her Daughters, was published soon after.

Crista Martin , freelance writer, Boston, Massachusetts