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Strickland, Agnesfree

  • Rosemary Mitchell

Agnes Strickland (1796–1874)

by John Hayes, 1846

Strickland, Agnes (1796–1874), historian, was born on 19 August 1796, in north-west Kent, near London, the second eldest of the six surviving daughters and two sons of Thomas Strickland (1758–1818), a shipping agent and dock manager, and his second wife, Elizabeth Homer (1772–1864). Her sisters were Elizabeth Strickland (1794–1875); Sarah; Jane Margaret Strickland (1800–1888), born on 18 April 1800, also in north-west Kent, Catharine Parr Traill (1802–1899); and Susanna Moodie (1803–1885). All her female siblings except Sarah Strickland became authors, as did too her brother Samuel Strickland (1805–1867). The Stricklands were descended from Yorkshire farmers, but a more romantic family tradition connected them to the Stricklands of Sizergh Castle.

Education and early authorship

With her elder sister, Elizabeth, who was born on 17 November 1794, also in north-west Kent, Agnes Strickland was educated by her father; he believed that girls should be educated 'upon the same plan as boys because … it strengthened the female mind' (Pope-Hennessy, 5). He taught them Latin and mathematics, and made them write abstracts of the books they had read; Agnes's reading included Shakespeare, Pope, Thoyras-Rapin's History of England, and Plutarch's Lives. The family was brought up in London and East Anglia, but by 1808 Thomas Strickland had made enough money to buy Reydon Hall, an Elizabethan mansion near Southwold in Suffolk. In the summer, the girls hunted for wild flowers in the surrounding countryside, and shells on the local beach; in winter, they took to writing stories. Part of the year was spent in Norwich, where they used the free library and joined the cultivated circle surrounding the Taylor family.

'Extravagantly fond of poetry' (Pope-Hennessy, 6), Agnes Strickland wrote a good deal of juvenile verse imitative of Walter Scott, while Elizabeth preferred to express herself in historical essays. Agnes's Monody on the death of Princess Charlotte appeared in the Norwich Mercury; rather ominously for her career as a poet, she read her Worcester Field, or, The Cavalier, a poem in four cantos, to her father two days before his death. This event obliged the family, now settled entirely at Reydon, to earn livings: five of the girls took to writing children's stories. Agnes Strickland's efforts included The Use of Sight (1824) and The Rival Crusoes (1826).

The two eldest sisters, despite shared interests, differed in appearance and character. Agnes, with a plump, rosy face and silky black hair, was the more sociable and talkative: one of her sisters later recalled that 'possessed of an excellent temper, great flow of eloquence, and playful repartee, her descriptive powers never seemed to flag' (Susanna Moodie, 313). By contrast, Elizabeth, slim and pale-faced with aquiline features, was reserved, intensely studious, and independent, 'possessing the governing powers in no ordinary degree' and with a temper 'warm to faultiness' (Strickland, 384). They began to spend some of the year in London attempting to establish careers as professional writers. In the drawing-room of one cousin, who was the wife of the architect Thomas Leverton, they made important literary contacts, meeting the poet Thomas Campbell, Robert Southey, Charles Lamb, and William Jerdan, editor of the Literary Gazette. Most significant among these contacts were women of letters: these included Louisa Costello, Barbara Hofland, and the Porter sisters (who became close friends of the Stricklands). Such women offered encouragement, role models, and potential access to work on the keepsakes and annuals which were a major outlet for minor littérateurs in the early to mid-nineteenth century (Agnes was a contributor to and sometime editor of Fisher's Juvenile Scrapbook). A friendship with the poet Letitia Landon, however, did not advance Agnes's career; the disappointed aspirate printed by subscription Worcester Field (1826) and The Seven Ages of Woman (1827). Despite their lack of originality they served as publicity for future work. An imitation of Byron, her poem Demetrius: a Tale of Modern Greece appeared in 1833: inspired by the struggle of the Greeks against the Turks, it was her last poetical fling. She had now begun to write a historical romance entitled The Pilgrims of Walsingham (1835), a sixteenth-century version of the Canterbury Tales in which a party of pilgrims including Henry VII, Charles V, and Wolsey each narrate a tale as they travel to the shrine. It was a mediocre production, despite favourable reviews, and seems to have convinced Agnes that fiction was not her forte. Meanwhile Elizabeth Strickland had considerably advanced her career: a contact with Lady Morgan had led to employment by the publisher Henry Colburn, founder and financier of several periodicals including the New Monthly Magazine and The Athenaeum. By 1830 she had become editor of the Court Journal, which covered court and society news, fashion, cultural events, racing, and other similar events.

Embarking on the Lives of the Queens of England, 1830–1840

In the early 1830s the Strickland family was largely dispersed: both Strickland brothers were already living abroad, one in Canada, one in the West Indies; in 1832 Catharine Parr Traill and Susanna Moodie emigrated to Canada with their new husbands; the domestically minded Sarah had married Robert Childs, partner in the dissenting publishing firm of that name, while Jane stayed at home with her mother, a labour for which Agnes piously opined she would not 'lose [her] heavenly reward' (Strickland, 300). The two eldest sisters were moving towards a new field of authorship, popular history: they had decided to collaborate on a series of biographies of the queens of England. By the early 1830s Agnes and Elizabeth Strickland were devoting part of the morning to reading historical manuscripts in the British Museum Library, with instruction in palaeography from the staff. Agnes was in contact with antiquaries and scholars, including Harris Nicolas, Cuthbert Sharp, Joseph Hunter, and the French historian and government minister Guizot. Though firmly protestant herself, she also formed links with prominent Catholic families in her endeavour to understand the pre-Reformation world. The Lives of the Queens of England (1840–48) owed much to the Catholic priest John Lingard's History of England (1819–30), one of the few full national histories available in the 1830s, and Henry and Philip Howard of Corby Castle both lent her manuscripts.

‘Facts not opinions’ was the motto adopted by the sisters, and their manuscript research was both pioneering and intensive. As the sisters began work on the Tudor queens for the fourth volume, it became necessary to gain access to the state paper office: initially refused permission by the home secretary, Lord John Russell, they finally gained permits from Lord Normanby with the help of Henry Howard and Sir George Strickland; later they obtained permits for the rolls office from Sir Francis Palgrave. While Elizabeth wrote twelve of the pre-1485 biographies and Agnes only seven, an agreement between the two sisters obliged Agnes to conduct all correspondence, both scholarly and business, and her name alone appeared on the title-pages of all their publications. While Elizabeth lived in relative seclusion in Bayswater, Agnes attended the parties, salons, and country houses to which the Lives gained them entrée. Agnes, however, did not prove an effective woman of business: when she was ill and the publisher Colburn was pressing for the third volume of the Lives, Elizabeth intervened and secured a new and better agreement for £150 per volume.

Agnes Strickland's enthusiasm for female royalty was not limited to deceased queens. She had earlier persuaded a Catholic friend, Lady Bedingfeld, to approach Queen Adelaide with an almanac of her verses, which was dedicated to the queen. In 1836 she viewed Princess Victoria returning from a drawing-room; in 1837 she somehow obtained an invitation to the coronation. When the queen became engaged in 1840, Colburn commissioned her to write an account of Victoria's life from her birth to her wedding, offering to provide press cuttings and other materials himself. Agnes accepted, and both she and Colburn networked vigorously to obtain a ticket for her to the queen's wedding, which was gained only the evening before the ceremony. Shortly afterwards, the two-volume Victoria from Birth to Bridal appeared. The book presented Victoria in a very favourable light, but the queen herself was critical, disputing many matters of fact with an emphatic 'not true' in the margin. Allegedly, most of the edition, although already on sale, was subsequently pulped; copies of the work are certainly very rare.

Travel and celebrity, 1840–1847

As the sisters prepared the fourth volume of the Lives in 1840, Agnes took advantage of her increasing celebrity to tour country houses in the north and west of England that had links with the Tudor queens. She was accompanied by Elizabeth; their tour started with a visit to Middle Hall in Gloucestershire, the home of the bibliophile Sir Thomas Phillipps, who often helped her in her research. They then proceeded to Sizergh Castle, where Agnes excitedly explored the rooms in which she imagined Katherine Parr to have resided and found documents relating to the exiled court of James II and Mary of Modena, where the Stricklands had featured. They toured the surrounding Lake District, before proceeding to Corby Castle, the home of the Howards. During the succeeding winter Agnes took a break from the Lives to polish up an old story for publication as Alda: the British Captive: it was reviewed dismissively in The Athenaeum but the Gentleman's Magazine was more generous. The fifth volume of the Lives—containing the biographies of Katherine Parr by Agnes and of Mary Tudor by Elizabeth—attracted more critical attention: there, back to back, were a highly laudatory portrait of the proto-protestant last wife of Henry VIII (by Agnes) and a radical and sympathetic reinterpretation of the Catholic queen Mary Tudor (by Elizabeth). Accused of papistry (by dint of her sole authorial credit), Agnes increased her attendance at church and made greater efforts with Sunday school teaching in Reydon to dispel the rumours.

From before the publication of the Lives, Agnes and Elizabeth Strickland had been translating and collating the letters of Mary, queen of Scots. With the publication of Prince Lobanov's selection of her letters from Russian archives came the impetus to publish their own translations. Agnes's friend Jane Porter was then staying with her brother, Sir Robert Ker Porter, in St Petersburg, and she offered to obtain transcripts of all of the Scottish queen's letters in the imperial library there. Initially issued in a supplementary volume to the first edition of 1842, they subsequently appeared in chronological order in later editions. Agnes Strickland spent most of 1842 and part of 1843 writing the life of Elizabeth I; the first volume of this biography was well received. In summer 1843 Agnes with her widowed sister Sarah Childs undertook a tour of the Lake District; here Sarah met her second husband, a local clergyman, and Agnes explored the historical sights and visited Wordsworth at Rydal Mount. After a few days at Corby Castle, they travelled on to Scotland to visit Edinburgh and the Crauford family at Craufordland Castle. They returned in mid-November to Reydon, where Agnes proof-read the second section of Elizabeth I's life, which was to appear in the same volume with Elizabeth Strickland's life of Anne of Denmark.

In April 1844 the elder Strickland sisters set off for a visit to France to conduct research into the lives of Henrietta of France and Mary of Modena. The sisters embarked from Southampton for Le Havre, and a boat down the Seine. They stayed at Rouen where they visited the cathedral of Notre-Dame for an evening service and stayed to view the tombs. The vicar of the cathedral, who showed them some fine illuminated manuscripts, took them on to the church of St Ouen. During their stay they also visited the cathedral library and the church of St Maclou. On Easter Saturday they took the train to Paris and attended Easter morning mass at Notre-Dame. On Easter Monday the Strickland sisters travelled to St Germain-en-Laye, to research the Stuarts in exile. After a short illness on Agnes's part, the sisters paid a visit to Guizot, then premier of France, who provided them with a general letter of introduction to the officials in charge of the Paris archives. The sisters at once began work in the well-catalogued Archives du Royaume and the Archives du Ministère des Affaires Etrangères. A visit to Jules Michelet was more than just pleasure, as he produced documents relating to Queen Henrietta for Elizabeth and three bundles of letters from Mary of Modena for Agnes. The sisters visited the Scots College, where they inspected many Jacobite relics, and the nearby Augustinian convent of English ladies, where the abbess proved to be a fount of Stuart trivia. Agnes Strickland also attended many social events, including the British embassy ball and the salon of Lady Elgin, widow of the collector of the marbles. Both sisters saw the famous actress Rachel act in Cinna, as Elizabeth preferred to confine herself to public entertainments and seances—she had a lifelong though sceptical interest in spiritualism. The sisters visited Dieppe and Eu before sailing back to Southampton after three months abroad.

Agnes Strickland's increasing celebrity was also reflected in her London life. Staying with the Mackinnon family at 4 Hyde Park Place in summer 1844 (Elizabeth went to Reydon), Agnes spent her evenings attending the social functions of a London season, while working at the British Museum in the mornings and resting in the afternoons. At such events she met the duke of Wellington and the exiled kings of Portugal and Spain; she also made a series of close friendships with aristocratic men and women, friendships of both sentimental and practical value, as many of these new acquaintances opened their country houses, archives, and picture galleries to her. Despite these enjoyments, the eighth volume of the Lives was published in autumn 1844; the ninth volume, containing the first part of Agnes's biography of Mary of Modena, followed in 1845, as too the over-lengthy second instalment of Mary's life in the tenth volume. In this biography the keenly Jacobite Agnes produced the first English account of the life of James II's queen, and she was unable to resist including many details from the original documentation discovered in France.

In 1846 the flattering portrait of Agnes by John Hayes was exhibited at the Royal Academy, and the Lives was an inspiration for artists of historical genre in the 1840s and 1850s. But other attributes of celebrity were less pleasing: begging letters and plagiarism by other writers afflicted the Stricklands. Agnes exacted a polite apology from Lord Campbell, whom she held to have plagiarized her life of Eleanor of Provence in his Lives of the Lord Chancellors (1845–7). In July 1847 the Edinburgh Review published a lengthy article attacking the Stuart volumes of the Lives. The writer was C. M. S. Phillipps. He berated Agnes rather for her treatment of Stuart kings than Stuart queens, condemning both her tory and monarchist views and her moral judgments as falling short of the 'masculine gravity and impartiality' which the historian ought to exercise. Attacks came too from both evangelicals and Roman Catholics.

Writing the Lives of the Queens of Scotland, 1847–1853

Undeterred by these controversies, Agnes Strickland now suggested a comprehensive series of lives of the Scottish queens, which would allow her to write a biography of her beloved Mary, queen of Scots. Fearing that most of the research in medieval records would fall upon her, now that Agnes's social life was so full, Elizabeth opposed this suggestion. The sisters finally agreed to open the new series with the life of Margaret Tudor, wife of James IV, by Elizabeth. She was also to undertake the biographies of Elizabeth, queen of Bohemia, and Sophia, electress of Hanover, while Agnes was to write the lives of the two wives of James V and her heroine, Mary Stewart. Accordingly, Agnes spent summer 1847 at Chatsworth, Hardwick Hall, and Bolsover Castle, all properties belonging to the helpful duke of Devonshire; in spring 1848 she was busy working in the British Museum and the state paper office. Other projects were also under way: Colburn called for a revised edition of the Lives, with illustrations, and Elizabeth undertook most of the work for this. Meanwhile Agnes prepared her magazine poetry for publication under the title Historic Scenes and Poetic Fancies (1850), for which Colburn paid her £100: it also offered her the chance to take Macaulay to task for accusing Mary of Modena of selling prisoners from the Monmouth campaign into slavery in the West Indies.

While Agnes toured Scotland in 1850 (she visited Edinburgh and the surrounding area every year until 1855), her high-ranking friends assiduously drew her attention to portraits of Mary, queen of Scots, and showed her watches, rosaries, gloves, and other items which had belonged to the Scottish queen. She attended a young friend's wedding, at which she learnt to reel dance, and met Lord Ashley, later Lord Shaftesbury, the philanthropist, with whom she had little in common; nevertheless, she wrote him a set of verses, The Factory Child, to be sold on behalf of children in factories. Archibald Alison, the historian and diehard tory politician, was a more congenial acquaintance: he attentively listened to her enthusiastic conversation on her work, reviewed The Queens of Scotland favourably in Blackwood's Magazine, and described her with affectionate mockery in his Autobiography.

In spring 1850 Agnes Strickland opened negotiations with Colburn, with the first volume of The Queens of Scotland prepared for the press. When he refused her terms, she offered the series to William Blackwood, the Edinburgh publisher, who accepted it. Two volumes were published in the same year. Agnes saw them through the press, working meantime in Edinburgh libraries and continuing to visit Scottish friends as she approached 'the crowning labour of my life' (Pope-Hennessy, 213), the biography of Mary, queen of Scots. Later she returned to England, staying with friends and spending Christmas at Reydon, before continuing her work in London in the new year. Here she met Macaulay at a dinner party: the two argued over James II and William III, and Agnes opined that the great historian was 'vulgar, pompous and unprepossessing' (ibid., 223).

In 1852 Agnes was visited by her brother Samuel, who by this time had been twice widowed and was a farmer and leading citizen of Lakefield, Canada. It was Agnes who persuaded him to write an account of his experiences there, Twenty-Seven Years in Canada West (1853; repr. 1970). While in England, Samuel met Katherine Rackham, who became his third wife in 1855. They returned to Lakefield, where Samuel died on 3 January 1867.

Later publications: bachelors and bishops, 1855–1864

In 1854 Jane Margaret Strickland, Agnes's devoted sister, had published her school history, Rome, Regal and Republican, the proceeds of which allowed her to buy a cottage in Southwold. This was followed in 1856 by Adonijah: a Tale of the Jewish Dispersion, the crudely sensationalist story of a Jewish captive who becomes a slave in a Roman family, converts a vestal virgin to Judaism, and finally becomes a Christian: it reflects her broad knowledge of ancient history and her ability to spin a thumping good (if unlikely) yarn. In the same year Elizabeth Strickland was obliged to move out of her Bayswater cottage; she purchased a small villa, Abbot's Lodge, at Tilford, near Farnham, Surrey, where she lived for the rest of her life. Agnes sometimes stayed there but Elizabeth's hot temper could cloud a visit. On one occasion Agnes wrote home that she was 'not in health for her hurricanes' (Pope-Hennessy, 241–2) and had been obliged to leave after a quarrel on the third day of her stay. Other events in Agnes's life at the time included a protest against an incorrect tax assessment for 1856–7 (she regarded herself as something of a national benefactor, and was therefore liable to regard any tax demand as iniquitous), and a refusal to support a petition against the Married Women's Property Act: Agnes piously viewed these grievances as 'part and parcel of the penalties entailed by Eve's transgression' (Pope-Hennessy, 243). Other events of the late 1850s included a budding friendship with the recently widowed duchess of Somerset and involvement in the British Association.

From 1858 to 1860 Agnes Strickland spent much time cultivating her social circle. In 1858 she toured the west of England, before visiting Wales and paying a flying visit to Scotland. Winter was spent writing at Reydon. An Ipswich publisher suggested a volume on the three bachelor kings of England (William Rufus, Edward V, Edward VI); the subject appealed to the two lifelong spinsters. Elizabeth offered to deal with Edward V and to see to the illustrations. In spring 1859 Agnes returned to London; later in the year she stayed with the Howards at Corby and the Broughams at Brougham. After staying with her sister at Ulverston, she moved to Aberdeen to attend a meeting of the British Association. In 1860 she again spent the season in London, before staying at Stanford Hall, Rugby, and Althorp, where she delighted in the magnificent library and collection of portraits. On a visit to the Northamptonshire county lunatic asylum, she met the pastoral poet John Clare, an inmate there. While at Althorp, she also met a more congenial man of letters, Whyte Melville, with whom she shared a passion for Mary Stewart.

In 1861 The Bachelor Kings of England was published, to lukewarm reviews. Agnes sent a presentation copy to the prince of Wales, then at the Curragh in Ireland; in return, she received an invitation to the mayor of Dublin's ball in honour of the heir to the throne. Despite being sixty-five, Agnes attended the ball, and afterwards dined at the vice-regal lodge and visited several Irish country houses. After the London season of 1862 she again went on a round of country house visits, including Sudeley Castle and Rousham; from the latter, she was able to make trips to the Bodleian Library to carry out research for her new book on the senior clerics who refused to swear allegiance to William and Mary, The Lives of the Seven Bishops (1866). Handing over two of the bishops to Elizabeth, she wrote the remaining five herself, warming in particular to William Sancroft, a Suffolk man, and Thomas Ken. She also worked on a school abridgement of the Lives.

Later years and death, 1864–1888

After Mrs Strickland's death in 1864, at ninety-two, the sisters were obliged to sell Reydon. In March 1865 Agnes took up residence in Park Lane Cottage, Southwold, which she leased from Jane; Jane herself was to live in a smaller annexe. In 1864 Agnes published Alethea Woodville, a novel written some thirty years before under the more intriguing title How Will it End? In June 1865 she visited Oxford for the commemoration, where the undergraduates greeted her with cheers of 'the queens!' Agnes and Elizabeth visited the Tower of London together that summer before Agnes returned to Southwold to spend time in the company of her Suffolk friends, Sir John and Lady Blois. Agnes was unwell in 1866, but soon recovered when back in the midst of London social life. She attended a drawing-room before visiting the Dillons at Dytchley.

Agnes Strickland spent most of 1867 at work in the British Museum on a new book, although she did tour Wales, staying with (among others) Lady Llanover. The two sisters were planning The Tudor Princesses (1868): the idea was Elizabeth's, and it was she who undertook Mary Tudor, and Lady Jane Grey and her sisters. Agnes wrote the lives of Lady Eleanor Brandon and Lady Margaret Clifford—neither of whom interested her much—and Lady Arabella Stuart. Elizabeth's references to the Archives de France show that the book had long been brewing in her mind: Mary Tudor's Suffolk connections clearly appealed to her. In 1869 Agnes—who, unlike Elizabeth, was more attached to the Stuarts than to the Tudors—undertook a historical work by herself, a study of the three daughters of Charles I and the youngest daughter of James II. The Dutch connections of the dynasty presented problems: with introductions and information provided by Archbishop Tait and the Lambeth Palace librarian, Wayland Kershaw, she resolved to visit the Netherlands and examine the libraries of The Hague. Despite initial apprehensions at undertaking a trip abroad alone at seventy-three, she enjoyed the visit: she saw the sights, was presented to the queen of Holland, and was given much assistance by the royal librarian, Mr Campbell. After a brief tour of the Rhine she returned to England and Southwold to complete the work; Jane helped revise the proofs, but Elizabeth refused even this assistance. At seventy-five she preferred the quiet of her Tilford home, where she entertained supporters of Kossuth and attended the occasional seance. The Stuart Princesses (1872) was completed in March 1870; Agnes then settled down to the task of compressing her life of Mary, queen of Scots, into two volumes, which were published by Bell and Daldy in 1872.

After 1870 Agnes Strickland began to spend more time at home at Southwold: she took an interest in local affairs, writing a life of St Edmund, to whom the local church was dedicated, to raise money for charitable purposes. In this year she also received a civil-list pension of £100 in recognition of her services to literature. In 1871 she attended the Scott commemoration festival in Edinburgh and then stayed with her sister Sarah at Ulverston. While staying at Crouch End in 1872, she fell downstairs and broke her right leg in several places; later she had a stroke. She recovered temporarily, but died in Park Lane Cottage, Southwold, on 13 July 1874; she was buried in the churchyard of St Edmund, Southwold. Elizabeth Strickland died on 30 April 1875 at Abbot's Lodge, Tilford, and was buried in the churchyard at Tilford. Jane wrote a biography of Agnes, published in 1887; she died at Park Lane Cottage on 14 June of the following year and was buried beside the sister to whom she was so devoted. A lifelong spinster, Jane seems to have been a rather lonely figure: in the late 1860s her sister Catharine Parr Traill wrote of her that 'with talents of no mean order, beauty of person, and religious principles', she had 'never obtained the real tender love of any human being' (Selected Correspondence, 174). Less charitably, Susanna Moodie opined that 'in most families there is one, that always is a trial and who gets their own way by merely insisting upon it' (Susanna Moodie, 286).

Assessment and reputation

During her lifetime Agnes Strickland enjoyed considerable celebrity as the historian of the queens and cultivated a circle of aristocratic and literary friends, while her sister Elizabeth chose to remain outside the limelight. The Lives of the Queens of England and—to a lesser extent—the Lives of the Queens of Scotland were among the most popular of all Victorian historical publications, and remain important landmarks in the development of the biographical genre. By the beginning of the twentieth century the reputation of Agnes Strickland was much eclipsed, although those who produce biographies of the queens of England—from the writers of articles for the Dictionary of National Biography to scholars reinterpreting the careers of figures such as Anne Boleyn and Eleanor of Aquitaine in the 1990s—have found themselves obliged to turn to the Stricklands' seminal accounts. Most major public libraries continue to carry an edition of the Lives, among other encyclopaedic works, and the later twentieth century saw a revival of academic interest in the elder Strickland sisters as female historians and historians of women. They were undoubtedly key figures in the development of writing on women's history, playing a role in creating a tradition of female worthies which can be seen as the first step towards fuller scholarly investigation. While a range of contemporary women writers—including Anna Jameson, Lucy Aikin, Louisa Costello, Hannah Lawrance, Mrs Matthew Hall, and Emily Holt—were writing the biographies of royal and aristocratic women and court histories, the Stricklands were undoubtedly the most prominent and influential figures in their field of study. Womanist rather than feminist, they interpreted their subjects through the medium of Victorian domestic ideology: the queens are valued as much for their domestic and private virtues as for their public characters, and were intended as exemplars for a predominantly female readership. But this did not prevent challenging reinterpretations—such as Elizabeth's treatment of Mary I and Agnes's of Mary, queen of Scots—or the underlying suggestion of dissatisfaction with ‘masculine’ approaches to history which ignored social, cultural, and domestic issues.

In their interest in this more ‘picturesque’ approach to the past—one which challenged the philosophical tradition of the eighteenth century—the Stricklands were by no means at odds with their age, which saw the rise of the historical novel under the authorship of Walter Scott. However, unlike some of their rivals they were also influenced by the antiquarian tendency of picturesque history writing: they wrote queenly lives based on full and original documentation, pursuing research in archives in both Britain and France. It was in Mary Anne Everett Green, the author of The Lives of the Princesses of England and a historian equally devoted to record research, that they were to find their most satisfactory disciple. Her employment in the Public Record Office—an acceptance as a professional historian—makes her a bridge between the Stricklands and the next generation of women historians—which included Kate Norgate, Lucy Toulmin Smith, and Alice Stopford Green—who were themselves precursors of the women social and economic historians in the early twentieth century such as Alice Clark and Eileen Power.


  • U. Pope-Hennessy, Agnes Strickland: biographer of the queens of England, 1796–1874 (1940)
  • J. M. Strickland, The life of Agnes Strickland (1887)
  • C. Ballstadt, ‘The literary history of the Strickland family’, PhD diss., 1965
  • R. A. Mitchell, Picturing the past: English history in text and image, 1830–1870 (2000)
  • R. A. Maitzen, Gender, genre, and Victorian history writing (1998)
  • A. Laurence, ‘Women historians and documentary research: Lucy Aikin, Agnes Strickland, Mary Anne Everett Green, and Lucy Toulmin Smith’, Women, scholarship and criticism, ed. J. Bellamy, A. Laurence, and G. Perry (2000), 125–41
  • Bodl. Oxf., MSS Phillipps-Robinson
  • C. P. Traill, Pearls and pebbles (1894)
  • R. A. Mitchell, ‘The busy daughters of Clio: women writers of history from 1820 to 1880’, Women's History Review, 7/1 (1998), 107–34
  • R. A. Mitchell, ‘A stitch in time? Women, needlework, and the making of history in Victorian Britain’, Journal of Victorian Culture, 1/2 (autumn 1996), 185–202
  • M. Delorme, ‘Facts not opinions: Agnes Strickland’, History Today, 38 (1988), 45–50
  • B. G. Smith, ‘The contribution of women to modern historiography in Great Britain, France and the United States, 1750–1940’, American Historical Review, 89 (1984)
  • U. Reading L., Bell archives
  • J. Sutherland, ‘Henry Colburn, publisher’, Publishing History, 19 (1986), 59–84
  • C. Campbell Orr, ‘Agnes Strickland, historian of women, and the Langham Place Group’, delivered at the Age of Equipoise conference, Trinity and All Saints College, Leeds, July 1996, priv. coll.
  • R. A. Mitchell, ‘The exemplification of medieval queens in nineteenth-century Britain’, Heroic reputations and exemplary lives, ed. G. Cubitt and A. Warren (2000), 157–77
  • Susanna Moodie: letters of a lifetime, ed. C. Ballstadt, E. Hopkins, and M. A. Peterman (1985)
  • I bless you in my heart: selected correspondence of Catharine Parr Traill, ed. C. Ballstadt, E. Hopkins, and M. A. Peterman (1996)
  • C. McCandless Thomas, ‘Strickland, Samuel’, DCB


  • Bodl. Oxf., corresp. with Sir T. Phillipps
  • Glos. RO, corresp.
  • Herts. ALS, letters to E. B. Lytton
  • Lincs. Arch., letters to Charles Tennyson D'Eyncourt
  • NL Scot., corresp. with Blackwoods
  • priv. coll., NRA, letters to Philip Henry Howard
  • Suffolk RO, Ipswich, corresp. and papers
  • Suffolk RO, Lowestoft, historical corresp.
  • U. Edin. L., letters to James Halliwell-Phillipps
  • U. Reading L., letters to George Bell and Sons
  • National Library of Canada, Patrick Hamilton Ewing collection of Moodie-Strickland-Vickers-Ewing family papers


  • C. L. Gow, chalk drawing, 1846, NPG
  • J. Hayes, oils, 1846, NPG [see illus.]
  • engraving, 1860–1879, repro. in Strickland, Life, frontispiece
  • Southwell Bros., carte-de-visite, NPG
  • miniature (aged between fifteen and twenty), repro. in Pope-Hennessy, Agnes Strickland, facing p. 20; priv. coll.
  • photograph, repro. in Pope-Hennessy, Agnes Strickland, facing p. 268

Wealth at Death

under £3000: probate, 4 Dec 1874, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

under £3000—Elizabeth Strickland: probate, 22 May 1875, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

£2048 9s. 5d.—Jane Margaret Strickland: probate, 24 July 1888, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

, 63 vols. (1885–1900), suppl., 3 vols. (1901); repr. in 22 vols. (1908–9); 10 further suppls. (1912–96); (1993)
Bodleian Library, Oxford
G. W. Brown & others, eds., , [14 vols.] (1966–)