Agnes Strickland: Selected Literary Works Background

Agnes Strickland: Selected Literary Works Background

As the 18th century was slowly drawing to a close, Thomas and Elizabeth Homer Strickland welcomed their ninth child, Elizabeth. One might well say she was born to become a writer; five of her siblings pursued the same career path. Agnes had chosen poetry as the literary genre in which to express her innermost thoughts and artistic longing. Unfortunately for Agnes, the reading public had other ideas. Although she would initially publish a few volumes of her poetry, even the most popular of the lot—The Seven Ages of Women—sold quite poorly. A chance meeting at the right time with Sir Walter Scott convinced Agnes to switch gears and pursue another of her great interest from the perspective of prose composition. Commencing with a collaborative effort with her sister Elizabeth, the career of Agnes Strickland, children’s author, historian and biographer, kicked off.

Among the most popular and well-received of the books co-authored by the sister Strickland are Historical Tales of Illustrious British Children (1833) and Tales and Stories from History (1836). Only the name Agnes appeared in print as the author of these collaborations because Elizabeth feared the consequence of a public life as a recognized author. Nevertheless, the series of books they produced were truly a joint effort with both women writing about equal portions of the completed product.

The success of their books for children and the interest stimulated in them both by virtue of having delved into history prompted them to undertake an ambitious project which would eventually be published in twelve volumes between 1840 and 1848: Lives of the Queens of England. This project inspired a series of similarly titled historical overviews that includes, among others, Lives of the Bachelor Kings of England (1861), Lives of the Tudor Princesses, Including Lady Jane Gray and Her Sisters (1868) and Lives of the Last Four Princesses of the Royal House of Stuart (1872). In addition to these ongoing collaborations with Elizabeth, Agnes also wrote and published on her own Lives of the Queens of Scotland and English Princesses.

In 1872, Agnes Strickland suffered a terrible fall which left her partially paralyzed and would pass away two years later.

Elizabeth was devastated by her sister's death and chose to honor her memory and her legacy by devoting her time and energy to preserving Agnes’ works, ensuring that they were not forgotten. She was instrumental in the publication of a new edition of the Lives of the Queens of England in 1874, and a posthumous edition of The Life of Mary Queen of Scots in 1875. Elizabeth continued to write and publish works of her own, but despite her own accomplishments, Agnes would always remain her inspiration, her motivation and her muse. Elizabeth Homer Strickland passed away in 1891, but her legacy, and her sister’s, live on in the work they left behind.

Elizabeth was the only one of the Strickland children to not pursue a literary career. She instead chose to remain at home and help her aging parents. She spent her days assisting her mother in her daily tasks and making sure her father was well looked after. Elizabeth was even responsible for caring for her siblings when they were ill, and her continued dedication to her family was greatly appreciated by all.

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