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Smith, Georgina Castle [née Georgina Meyrick; pseud. Brenda] (1845–1933), children's writer, was born on 9 May 1845 at 15 Cambridge Terrace, Bayswater, London, the fourth of eight children of a solicitor, William Meyrick (1809/10–1898), and his wife, Eliza, née James (b. 1817/18). She was a bookish child who suffered from hay fever and asthma. Her father appears in directories as tenant of a series of houses in Bayswater until 1872, when he disappears from them both as householder and as solicitor. It seems likely that he was the William Meyrick who was declared bankrupt on 5 June 1874, and that the appearance of Georgina Meyrick's first children's novel in December 1873, when she was twenty-eight, can be linked to a family financial disaster. Her father, who died abroad, apparently deserted the family.

Georgina Meyrick's first book, Nothing to Nobody (1873), published, like all her books, under the name Brenda, was a ‘street arab’ or ‘waif’ tale in the tradition of Jessica's First Prayer (1867) by Sarah Smith. In Nothing to Nobody a Sunday school teacher reforms an orphan called Daddy Long Legs, and its emphasis on practical philanthropy and its mildly evangelical Anglicanism are typical of the author's work. It was successful enough for Georgina to write another street arab tale in time for the following Christmas, a tale which became her most popular work. First advertised in December 1874, Froggy's Little Brother was a famous tear-jerker about two orphan boys. Froggy works as a crossing-sweeper to support his little brother Benny, but the climax is Benny's saintly death. It remained in print for most of the next fifty years, becoming a staple ‘prize book’, and was filmed in 1921. Froggy was illustrated by a young solicitor, Castle Smith (1849–1936), whom Georgina Meyrick married shortly afterwards (7 October 1875). They set up house at 49 Avenue Road, St John's Wood, London, and had five children. His forename was Castle, but his wife and family used the surname Castle Smith. Brenda continued publishing fairly steadily: thirteen children's books came out in the next fifteen years, then between 1890 and 1932 another eight books, including two novels for adult readers and a sequel (1914) to Froggy's Little Brother. Although she did not entirely abandon the street arab formula, and almost all her books incite the reader to philanthropy, many of her later stories focus on middle- and upper-class children. This is true of two of the most charming, Five Little Partridges, or, The Pilot's House (1885), about a middle-class family's annual migration to the seaside, which portrays (family tradition asserts) her own children, and The Earl's Granddaughter (1895), about the conversion of an upper-class girl to good works. The last contains a thinly disguised picture of the entire community in Lyme Regis, Dorset, to which town the Castle Smiths retired, and where at her home, the Corner Cottage, she died on 27 December 1933; she was buried in the Lyme Regis cemetery.

Charlotte Mitchell

Sources  

memoir, priv. coll. · private information (2004) [P. Castle Smith, B. Barnikel] · C. Lennox-Boyd, ‘Brenda and her works’, Signal, 62 (May 1990), 114–30 · The Times (3 Jan 1934) · Boyle's Court Guide · Law List · b. cert. · m. cert. · Law Society, archives · bankruptcy petition book (1874), TNA: PRO, MS B6/179 · census returns, 1861, 1871, 1881 · D. Gifford, The British film catalogue, 1895–1985: a reference guide [2nd edn] (1986) · wills of Georgina Castle Smith and Castle Smith · CGPLA Eng. & Wales (1934)

Archives  

priv. coll.


Wealth at death  

£971 18s. 8d.: probate, 1 Feb 1934, CGPLA Eng. & Wales