Keary, Annie (DNB00)

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KEARY, ANNIE (1825–1879), novelist, was born at Bilton Rectory, near Wetherby, Yorkshire, on 3 March 1825. Her father, William Keary, rector of the parish, was an Irishman from co. Galway, who had originally been in the army; her mother was the daughter of Hall Plumer, esq., of Bilton Hall. She showed as a child an active imagination and a great faculty for story-telling. Her first experience as an authoress was acquired in early life. She took charge of the motherless children of an elder brother, and for them wrote ‘Little Wanderlin’ and many other fairy tales, some of which were eventually published. The loss of her charge through her brother's second marriage and the breaking off of an engagement were great trials to her, and probably affected her health. In 1858 she spent a winter in Egypt, and after her return went through many phases of religious experience. She had already published several children's books, of which ‘Sidney Grey’ is the best known, and now entered upon a career of novel-writing. Her most important works, some of which appear to have been composed a considerable time before publication, were ‘Janet's Home,’ 1863, ‘Clemency Franklyn,’ 1866, ‘Oldbury,’ 1869, ‘Castle Daly,’ 1875, ‘A York and a Lancaster Rose,’ 1876, and ‘A Doubting Heart,’ 1879. She also wrote two very useful books of a semi-educational character, ‘Early Egyptian History,’ published anonymously in 1861, and ‘The Nations Around,’ an account of the peoples bordering upon Israel, 1870. In conjunction with her sister Eliza she produced the ‘Heroes of Asgard,’ tales from Scandinavian mythology, 1857. Much of this work was done at Peganas, near Cannes, whither she frequently resorted to recruit her health. After a long decline she died at Eastbourne on 3 March 1879, leaving her last, and one of her best, novels, ‘A Doubting Heart,’ incomplete. It was finished by Mrs. K. Macquoid, and appeared in ‘Macmillan's Magazine,’ where ‘Castle Daly’ had also been published.

Miss Keary was a woman of great refinement, sensitive and accessible to all the finer emotions, but active and industrious, and combining in her novels acute observation with deep feeling. She is essentially feminine, and seldom quits the sphere of domestic life. Her best and most popular work, ‘Castle Daly,’ an Irish story, was that which gave her the least pleasure in composition. It is remarkable for its impartial delineation of the strong and weak points of Saxon and Celtic character. She had very little personal knowledge of Ireland, and her success can only be attributed to her inheritance of Irish blood.

[Memoir of Annie Keary, by her sister (Eliza Keary), 1882.]

R. G.