Strickland, Agnes (1796–1874)

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Strickland, Agnes (1796–1874)

English historian and writer. Born Agnes Strickland on August 19, 1796, in London, England; died on July 13, 1874, in Southwold, Suffolk; third daughter of Thomas Strickland of Reydon Hall, Suffolk (a shipper), and Elizabeth (Homer) Strickland; sister of Elizabeth Strickland (1794–1875), Jane Margaret Strickland (1800–1888), Catherine Parr Traill (1802–1899), Susanna Moodie (1803–1885), and Samuel Strickland (1809–1867), all writers; tutored by her father in Greek, Latin, mathematics, and history; never married; no children.

Selected writings:

Worcester Field (n.d.); Demetrius and Other Poems (1833); Historical Tales of Illustrious British Children (1833); Tales and Stories from History (1836); The Lives of the Queens of England (12 vols., 1840–48); Alda, the British Captive (1841); (ed.) Letters of Mary, Queen of Scots (1843); Lives of the Queens of Scotland and English Princesses Connected with the Royal Succession of Great Britain (1850–59); Lives of the Bachelor Kings of England (1861); How Will It End? (1865); Lives of the Seven Bishops Committed to the Tower in 1688 (1866); Lives of the Tudor Princesses (1868); Lives of the Last Four Princesses of the Royal House of Stuart (1872); Guthred, the Widow's Slave (1875); The Royal Brothers (1875).

Born on August 19, 1796, in London, Agnes Strickland was one of Thomas Strickland and Elizabeth Homer Strickland 's nine children, six of whom went on to become writers. Her sister Elizabeth Strickland (1794–1875) would collaborate with Agnes on her major works (although Elizabeth chose to receive no credit in these endeavors). Another sister, Jane Margaret Strickland (1800–1888), would author a history of Rome as well as a biography entitled Life of Agnes Strickland (1887). Three other Strickland siblings emigrated to Canada and became prominent Canadian writers: Catherine Parr Traill (1802–1899), who wrote juvenile fiction and published works about settler life; Susanna Moodie (1803–1885), who authored a book on Canada as well as sentimental novels; and Samuel Strickland (1809–1867), who wrote Twenty-Seven Years in Canada, a work edited by Agnes.

Agnes and Elizabeth were educated by their father Thomas, a shipper, who promoted their historical interests while providing them with instruction in Greek, Latin, and mathematics. With his death in 1818, the family's financial difficulties necessitated new sources of income, and Agnes turned to publishing. Among her first efforts were original poetry and translations of Petrarch. She authored historical romances, including Worcester Field and Demetrius and Other Poems (1833), in verse, before writing prose histories, among them Historical Tales of Illustrious British Children (1833) and Tales and Stories from History (1836), for children. Agnes served as coeditor of Fisher's Juvenile Scrapbook, and Elizabeth also entered the arena of children's publishing, producing a number of books which met with success.

With Elizabeth's help, Agnes began work on an ambitious biographical series which was to prove the most successful work of her career. Although Elizabeth authored a number of the biographies in the 12-volume Lives of the Queens of England (1840–48), she preferred to be a silent contributor, and the series was published under Agnes' name only. Notes Joanne Shattock : "Agnes undertook exhaustive research for the books in official records and in private manuscript collections. When Lord John Russell refused her permission to consult state papers, as a woman, she circumvented him by lobbying Lord Normanby. The French historian Guizot was so impressed by her work that he arranged for her to have access to the French official archives." Indeed, Strickland was to be remembered as a successful historian for her tenacity at research rather than for her critical merit.

While still engaged with Lives of the Queens of England, in 1843 she edited a book on Mary Stuart , Letters of Mary, Queen of Scots. Elizabeth proved instrumental in much of Strickland's next works, including Lives of the Queens of Scotland, Lives of the Bachelor Kings of England, Lives of the Seven Bishops Committed to the Tower in 1688, and the 1868 work Lives of the Tudor Princesses. Meanwhile, Lives of the Queens of England continued to be a popular work (Agnes and Elizabeth secured the copyright in 1863 before the 1864–65 reprint). In addition to historical biography, Agnes wrote four novels. In 1871, she obtained an annual civil list pension of £100. In 1872, Strickland was partially paralyzed after a fall and died two years later, in 1874.


The Concise Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. III: N–Z. NY: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Kunitz, Stanley J., ed. British Authors of the Nineteenth Century. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1936.

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