Ritchie, Anne Isabella (1837–1919)

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Ritchie, Anne Isabella (1837–1919)

British novelist and essayist. Name variations: Anne Thackeray; Lady Ritchie; Anna Isabella Ritchie; Lady Anne Thackeray Ritchie; Mrs. Richmond Ritchie. Born Anne Isabella Thackeray in 1837 in England; died in February 1919 on the Isle of Wight; eldest daughter of William Makepeace Thackeray (1811–1863, the novelist) and Isabella Gethin Shawe; aunt of Virginia Woolf; educated privately; married her cousin Richmond Thackeray Willoughby Ritchie, also seen as Sir Richard Ritchie, in 1877; children: two.

Selected writings:

(fiction) The Story of Elizabeth (1863), The Village on the Green (1867), Old Kensington (1873), Miss Angel (1875), Mrs. Dymond (1885); (essay collections) Toilers and Spinners (1874), A Book of Sybils (1883); Blackstick Papers (1908), From the Porch (1913); (biographies) Madame de Sévigné (1881), Records of Tennyson, Ruskin and Browning (1892), Alfred Tennyson and His Friends (1893); contributed material to Dictionary of National Biography.

The elder daughter of Isabella Gethin Shawe and eminent novelist William Makepeace Thackeray, Anne Isabella Ritchie was born in 1837 and grew up surrounded by many of the leading literary figures of the Victorian era, several of whom became the subjects of biographical studies she wrote later in life. Anne and her sister spent their early years in Paris with their grandparents because their mother had been hospitalized with mental illness, but they returned to London in 1847. There, the girls associated with the children of Charles Dickens and met several celebrated writers. Anne helped her father by copying out his manuscripts, and she began publishing her own work in Cornhill Magazine. After her father's death in 1863, Anne expanded her literary contacts to include the poets Tennyson, Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning , and Swinburne; novelists Charlotte Brontë and George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans ); and critic John Ruskin. As the aunt of Virginia Woolf , whom she influenced, Anne was also linked to the first generation of modern writers. Lady Ritchie's first novel The Story of Elizabeth (1863) was based upon her childhood in Paris. She became known for novels with domestic settings and themes, in particular The Village on the Green (1867) and Old Kensington (1873). The inspiration for her fourth novel Miss Angel (1875) was the life of 18th-century painter Angelica Kauffmann , and her fifth novel Mrs. Dymond (1885), often considered one of her best, was set during the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71).

In 1877, at age 40, Anne married Richmond Ritchie, her second cousin. Though he was 17 years younger than she, the marriage was said to be a success, and the couple had one son and one daughter. Richmond, who worked in the Indian civil service, was knighted in 1907, which bestowed upon Anne the title Lady Ritchie. After her marriage, she shifted her attention from fiction to essays and biographies, which, written in a "graceful and lucid style," are considered her best works. Her nonfiction titles include Toilers and Spinners (1874), which exposed the difficulties of unmarried, unemployed women, and A Book of Sibyls (1883), a collection of essays about women writers. Lady Ritchie also wrote Madame de Sévigné (1881), a biography of the 17th-century letter writer Marie de Sévigné , Records of Tennyson, Ruskin and Browning (1892) and Alfred Tennyson and His Friends (1893), and the essay collections Blackstick Papers (1908) and From the Porch (1913). She contributed essays to the Dictionary of National Biography and wrote introductions to the biographical editions of her father's works (1898–99). In 1903, Ritchie was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and she served as president of the English Association from 1912 to 1913. Ritchie was the model for the character of Mrs. Hilbery in Virginia Woolf's Night and Day.


Buck, Claire, ed. The Bloomsbury Guide to Women's Literature. NY: Prentice Hall, 1992.

The Concise Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Drabble, Margaret, ed. The Oxford Guide to English Literature. 5th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985.

Kunitz, Stanley J., and Howard Haycraft, eds. British Authors of the Nineteenth Century. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1936.

Shattock, Joanne. The Oxford Guide to British Women Writers. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Elizabeth Shostak , freelance writer, Cambridge, Massachusetts