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Meade, LT

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 7 months ago

LT Meade (Elizabeth Thomasina Meade Smith) (1854-1914) was a prolific writer of novels for girls and women. Between 1866 and her death in 1914, Meade published 280 titles, as well as short stories and articles for magazines such as The Strand Magazine and Lady’s Pictorial. During her most productive period, she published more than ten novels a year.

 

Born in Ireland in 1844, Meade was the eldest daughter of a Protestant clergyman. She developed an early ambition to write–a prospect which horrified her father, as no lady in their family had ever undertaken work for money.

 

After her mother died and her father remarried, Meade moved to London where she prepared herself for her writing career by studying in the Reading Room of the British Museum. She married Alfred Toulmin Smith in 1879.

 

Meade was best known for her novels of girl adventure, especially her stories of girls at school. She established the girls’ school story with her enormously popular A World of Girls (1886). However, she also experimented with a variety of other genres, including sentimental and evangelical stories, historical novels, adventure stories, romances, sensational stories and detective fiction. She enjoyed collaborating, and had no less than three co-authors during her career - Kennaway Douglas, Robert Eustace and Clifford Halifax, the last two being doctors.

 

The Brotherhood of the Seven Kings is available electronically through Gaslight. Other Meade stories can be found at Project Gutenberg and Gutenberg Australia.

 


Mike Grost on LT Meade and Robert Eustace

 

L.T. Meade and Robert Eustace's tales, in addition to the mystery plot, often contain a brilliant melodrama. This melodrama is rich in mise-en-scène, with elaborate events, strange forebodings, unusual settings, and sinister characters. It is the exact opposite of the dispassionate, financially oriented, daytime literature of Bodkin and Orczy. Many of Meade and Eustace's characters are the victims of romantic obsessions, obsessions exploited by the villains, and which cause them to behave foolishly. The villains often have strange powers, connected to science. Meade and Eustace's slogan could be "Poorer Living Through Chemistry", as this subject is often the sinister source of their villains' power.

 

Meade and Eustace's tales anticipate, and probably influenced, those of Arthur B Reeve. Some points of similarity: There is the story built around a scientific innovation. There is a common interest in drugs. There is an international perspective, with characters often from foreign countries, and international financial schemes part of the plot. Industrial enterprises and high finance play a role in both writers. There is the similar emphasis on dramatic storytelling. Police raids occur in both authors. The villains are often high-powered, influential people. Female characters are often prominent, with a scientific background.

 

Meade and Eustace's "The Man Who Disappeared" (1901) contains imagery that will find echoes in Freeman's "A Silent Witness" (1914): there is the well described Hampstead Heath, the use of sinister basements, and the similar use of chemistry as well. Also, the desire for an autopsy in Meade & Halifax's "Without Witnesses" anticipates attitudes of Freeman, as does the doctor detective of the series. However, Freeman's work in general seems much less related to what I have read of these authors.

 

Meade and Eustace's sense of magic is also strong. Like many impossible crime writers, the apparently impossible frameworks of their tales are set forth with a magical atmosphere. I use the word magic, and not the word supernatural, because unlike John Dickson Carr, Meade and Eustace's work has little invocation of traditional supernatural events, such as ghosts, witches, etc. Instead it has an overwhelming effect of magic breaking through into people's lives. Their "The Secret of Emu Plain", a story of apparently magical events in the Australian Outback, is a definitive look at the eerie properties of that region, anticipating the great Picnic at Hanging Rock.

 

The Florence Cusack stories open with "Mr. Bovey's Unexpected Will" (1899). This tale's plot, in its comic mode, shows signs of being a dry run for the more sinister "The Man Who Disappeared". If Meade's grimmer stories invoke magic, this light hearted one recalls fairy tales. It also begins with the detective Miss Cusack announcing that she is suffering from nervous problems, a plot thread that is dropped. Sympathetic characters who suffer from mental illness run through the Meade tales.

 

"The Tea Leaf", Eustace's late (1925) collaboration with Edgar Jepson, finds him pursuing many of the same themes, some 20 years after his collaboration with Meade ended. There is the same interest in freezing, the same impossible crimes explained through chemistry, the same interest in the geometry of rooms and buildings, the same obsessive characters, and the same brilliant female scientists: here one serves as the detective. The plot of this story has been re-used and summarized so many times it has passed into the folklore of the detective story, so this tale has lost some of the punch it must have originally had. But it is still a very well done story.

 

Bibliography

 

A Ring of Rubies (1892)

This Troublesome World (1893) with Clifford Halifax

The Voice of the Charmer (1893)

Stories from the Diary of a Doctor (1894) with Clifford Halifax

Dr Rumsey's Patient (1896) with Clifford Halifax

A Son of Ishmael (1896)

Under the Dragon Throne (1897) with Kennaway Douglas

A Master of Mysteries (1898) with Robert Eustace

The Gold Star Line (1899) with Robert Eustace

The Brotherhood of the Seven Kings (1899) with Robert Eustace

On the Brink of a Chasm (1899)

Where the Shoe Pinches (1900) with Clifford Halifax

The Sanctuary Club (1900) with Robert Eustace

A Race with the Sun (1901) with Clifford Halifax

The Blue Diamond (1901)

The Secret of the Dead (1901)

Confessions of a Court Milner (1902)

A Double Revenge (1902)

The Lost Square (1902) with Robert Eustace

The Sorceress of the Strand (1903) with Robert Eustace

Silenced (1904)

The Oracle of Maddox Street (1904)

The Adventures of Miranda (1904)

The Golden Shadow (1906)

The Chateau of Mystery (1907)

The Home of Silence (1907)

The Red Ruth (1907)

The Necklace of Parmona (1909)

Micah Faraday Adventurer (1910)

Twenty Four Hours (1911)

The House of the Black Magic (1912)

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