Thirkell, Angela (1890–1961)

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Thirkell, Angela (1890–1961)

English novelist and short-story writer. Name variations: (pseudonym) Leslie Parker. Born Margaret Angela Mackail on January 30, 1890, in London, England; died on January 30, 1961, in Bramley, England; daughter of John W. Mackail (a professor of poetry); educated privately; married James Campbell McInnes (a singer), in 1911 (divorced 1917); married George Thirkell (in the military), in 1918 (divorced 1929); children: (first marriage) Graham, Colin, and one daughter (died); (second marriage) Lance.

Novels, except as noted: (memoirs) Three Houses (Oxford University Press, 1931); Ankle Deep (Hamish Hamilton, 1933); High Rising (Hamish Hamilton, 1933); Wild Strawberries (Hamish Hamilton, 1933); The Demon in the House (Hamish Hamilton, 1934); (under pseudonym Leslie Parker) Trooper to the Southern Cross (Hamish Hamilton, 1934, republished under the name Angela Thirkell, Virago, 1985); O These Men, These Men (Hamish Hamilton, 1935); The Grateful Sparrow (Hamish Hamilton, 1935); August Folly (Hamish Hamilton, 1936); Coronation Summer (Oxford University Press, 1937); Summer Half (Hamish Hamilton, 1937); Pomfret Towers (Hamish Hamilton, 1938); The Brandons (Hamish Hamilton, 1939); Before Lunch (Hamish Hamilton, 1939); Cheerfulness Breaks In (Hamish Hamilton, 1940); Marling Hall (Hamish Hamilton, 1942); The Headmistress (Hamish Hamilton, 1944); Northbridge Rectory (Hamish Hamilton, 1944); Miss Bunting (Hamish Hamilton, 1945); Peace Breaks Out (Hamish Hamilton, 1947); Private Enterprise (Hamish Hamilton, 1947); Love among Ruins (Hamish Hamilton, 1948); The Old Bank House (Hamish Hamilton, 1949); County Chronicle (Hamish Hamilton, 1950); The Duke's Daughter (Hamish Hamilton, 1951); Happy Returns (Hamish Hamilton, 1952); Jutland Cottage (Hamish Hamilton, 1953); What Did It Mean? (Hamish Hamilton, 1954); Enter Sir Robert (Hamish Hamilton, 1955); Never Too Late (Hamish Hamilton, 1956); A Double Affair (Hamish Hamilton, 1957); Close Quarters (Hamish Hamilton, 1958); Love at All Ages (Hamish Hamilton, 1959); Three Score and Ten (Hamish Hamilton, 1961); An Angela Thirkell Omnibus (Hamish Hamilton, 1966); A Second Angela Thirkell Omnibus (Hamish Hamilton, 1967); The Brandons, and Others (Hamish Hamilton, 1968).

Also author of The Fortunes of Harriette: The Surprising Career of Harriette Wilson (1936). Contributor of short stories to periodicals in Australia and Great Britain.

British author Angela Thirkell was a prolific novelist whose career spanned some three decades. Between the 1930s and 1950s, her books were popular with audiences in both Great Britain and the United States. For her settings, Thirkell borrowed 18th-century novelist Anthony Trollope's fictional Bartsetshire, but she wrote predominantly about characters in modern times. Nevertheless, critics often compared her gentle, humorous tone to that of another 18th-century novelist, Jane Austen . Some of Thirkell's betterknown novels include Pomfret Towers, The Brandons and Marling Hall, and several of her books remain in print. She is also well known for the memoir of her childhood, Three Houses.

Angela Thirkell was born Angela Margaret Mackail on January 30, 1890, in London, England. The daughter of a poetry professor, she was also the granddaughter of Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones, who would draw pictures for her at her request during her childhood. Thirkell was also related to the famous British writer Rudyard Kipling, and spent a great deal of time with his daughter Josephine Kipling ; the two girls were the trial audience for Kipling's Just So Stories. Thirkell recalls these and other experiences in detail in Three Houses, first published in 1931.

In 1911, Thirkell married a famed singer, James Campbell McInnes. Though the couple had three children—one of whom died in infancy—they were divorced in 1917. She married again the following year, to George Thirkell, an Australian military man. The Thirkells traveled to Australia in a troopship in 1920, an experience upon which Angela Thirkell would later base her 1934 novel Trooper to the Southern Cross. The couple lived for a while in Tasmania before settling in Melbourne, where Angela became a member of the higher social circles, friend to such Australian notables as Dame Nellie Melba , Sir John Monash, and Thea Parker .

Partly because of a desire to write and partly because of a need to earn money, Thirkell began writing short stories while living in Melbourne. She managed to get some of her works published in periodicals in both Australia and England. Thirkell gave birth to another son in 1921, although her marriage was troubled. When her husband's business failed because of the Great Depression, she left him and returned to England in 1929.

Shortly after, Thirkell published her book of memoirs, Three Houses, which Dennis Drabelle later praised in the Washington Post Book World as "a genial exercise in nostalgia for a time when houses were enormous, children scampered through them in disregard of nannies and art popped up everywhere." In 1933, readers saw a virtual explosion of novels from Thirkell—Ankle Deep, High Rising, and Wild Strawberries, all published by Hamish Hamilton. She continued to publish one or more novels each year, with few exceptions, until her death in 1961. She did take some time off from her busy writing schedule in 1949, however, to travel to the United States and give lectures at Yale and Columbia universities.

sources and suggested reading:

McInnes, Graham. The Road to Gundagai. Hamish Hamilton, 1965.

Strickland, Margot. Angela Thirkell, Portrait of a Lady Novelist. Duckworth, 1977.

Washington Post Book World. February 8, 1987, p. 8.

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Thirkell, Angela (1890–1961)

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