Before Carolyn Keene …

15 Oct

“Good Luck” by Mrs. L. T. Meade

… there was L. T. Meade.
A friend of mine who knows my obsession with old books found this for me at the used bookstore where she works, and I fell in love with the book cover.

Elizabeth Thomasina Meade Smith 1844–1914

Good Luck by Mrs. L. T. Meade was published in 1896 (!) and described as ‘A Story for Girls’ under the category of ‘Books for Young Readers’. But Mrs. Meade also wrote mysteries, sixty-six in all, along with one hundred titles of general fiction and twelve short story collections.
Born in 1844 in County Cork, Ireland, Elizabeth Thomasina Meade Smith was the eldest daughter of a Protestant clergyman and began to write as a teenager, much to her father’s horror. Upon the death of her mother, she moved to London and studied in the Reading Room of the British Museum. She married Alfred Toulmin Smith in 1879.
Using the pseudonym ‘L. T. Meade’, she wrote over 300 books in her lifetime. She is best known for her novels of girl adventure, especially of girls at school, but she experiemented with many genres including religious and historical novels, adventure, romance and detective fiction. Her writing was described as “sentimental” and “sensational”. She co-authored books with other male authors; the first of these was with Dr. Clifford Halifax, with whom she first collaborated in 1893. A year later she teamed with Robert Eustace. Her partnership with Robert Eustace  featured two female villains, Madame Sara (in The Sorceress of the Strand) and Madame Koluchy (the mastermind of a band of gangsters, in The Brotherhood of the Seven Kings). One of her most unusual titles is Dumps; A Plain Girl (1905). She was also the co-editor of a popular girls’ magazine, Atalanta (previously titiled Every Girl’s Annual). She was active in women’s issues and a member of the feminist Pioneer Club.
The largest collection of her books resides at Cornell University, with about 185 titles. If you think collecting Nancy Drew Mysteries is a challenge, imagine collecting all of her works!


2 Responses to “Before Carolyn Keene …”

  1. judyalter October 16, 2014 at 12:56 am #

    How fascinating. Someone ought to do a book about her–or at least a good article. Precursor of Nancy Drew books.

    • nancyelauzon October 16, 2014 at 9:38 pm #

      I know, at a time when a woman writing novels was considered trail blazing! And she wrote different genres, didn’t stick to just one. Very admirable.

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