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Saturday, January 07, 2012

Alice Maud Meadows

Alice Maud Meadows was once described by Percy Muir (in English Children's Books) as the successful author of "Frantic Flossie" novelettes, her early career having been established writing novelettes for cheap penny library titles like Edwin Brett's The Princess's Novelettes. She later edited Brett's Keepsake Novels (1906-10) and was probably involved editorially with Brett's earlier cheap romance titles.

Born in Islington, London, in late 1859 or early 1860, the daughter of John Osmond Meadows (1826?-1900), a solicitor, and his wife Maria (nee Pickford, b.1826?). She was the fifth of eight children, her siblings including Osmond William (1850-1860), Kate Lovell (later Drew, later Corderoy, b.1853), Eleanor Mary (b.1856), Frederick Henry (b.1858), Sydney Meadows (1861-1939), Charlotte Louise (b.1863) and Sarah Pickford (b.1870). She was, according to Judy magazine in 1885, "the neice of the veteran actor", although quite who that veteran actor was, I've no idea.

Alice grew up in Finsbury, where her family lived at Allerton House, Brownswood Park, in a (presumably) well-to-do household which included a cook and a domestic, at the time of the 1871 census, at 10 Manor Road, Stoke Newington, at the time of the 1881 census, and 53 Parkhurst Road, Islington, at the time of the 1891 census.

She is also said to have sold her first story to the Surrey Comet at the age of 14. Over the many years of her writing career she contributed to Belgravia, Tinsley's Magazine, Penny Magazine, The Royal Magazine, Womanhood, The Strand, Alexander's Magazine, The Story-teller, etc., and also wrote popular newspaper serials, including 'The Threads of Life', 'For Love of a Lady'.

Her work was perhaps typical of the romance market of the time and split reviewers. Reynolds's News, for instance, described her as "a brilliant writer, whose previous novels have attracted very wide attention. In this latest novel Miss Meadows well sustains her reputation as a writer of very remarkable power," whilst the Daily Telegraph reviewed her novel I Charge You Both as "undeniably good in its way, well-conceived, well-constructed and vividly written." At the other extreme, a review of The Moth and the Flame described the story as "sensational and sentimental: it has no literary merit and no real study of character, and though the plot is well worked out the characters who take art in it are terribly wooden." (Nelson Evening Mail, 1908)

By the time of the 1901 census, Alice was still living with her unmarried sisters Eleanor, Charlotte and Sarah at 6 Haringey Park, Hornsey. In 1911, she was a boarder at 41 Guilford Street, Holborn, describing herself as a 35-year-old journalist (although she was actually 50 years old).

Alice Maud Meadows moved to Redhill in 1913, where she lodged with Louisa Mills at St John's Wood Road. On 5 May, she was walking her dog, a puppy, in the grouds of nearby Earlswood Asylum. Around noon, a patient at the Asylum found the dog howling on the bank of the Asylum Brook and spotted a body in the river. An inquest into her possible suicide revealed that she had no reason to be unhappy: she was receiving a regular income from her writing and had recently had a book accepted for publication. It was concluded that she had gone to the aid of her dog, who had, on previous occasions, had difficulties in the water. The Deputy-Coroner believed that, whilst attempting to aid the dog, Meadows had slipped down the cement bank by the side of the brook. A post mortem examination showed that Miss Meadows had fatty degeneration of the heart and her exertions may have caused her to faint. The jury returned a verdict of "Death by accidental drowning".

Novels
The Romance of a Madhouse. Bristol, J. W. Arrowsmith, 1891.
When the Heart is Young. London, Digby, Long & Co., 1895.
The Eye of Fate, illus. T. W. Henry. London, New York & Melbourne, Ward, Lock & Co., 1899.
Out from the Night, illus. St Clair Simmons. London, New York & Melbourne, Ward, Lock & Co., 1899.
Days of Doubt, illus. G. Demain Hammond. London, New York & Melbourne, Ward, Lock & Co., 1901.
One Life Between, illus. Gordon Browne. London, New York & Melbourne, Ward, Lock & Co., 1901.
I Charge You Both. London, Digby, Long & Co., 1905.
The Extreme Penalty. London, Digby, Long & Co., 1906.
Cut By Society. London, Digby, Long & Co., 1906.
Blind Man's Buff. London, Everett & Co., 1907.
A Million of Money. London, Sisley's, 1907.
The House at the Corner. London, T. Werner Laurie, 1908.
The Moth and the Flame. London, John Milne, 1908.
The Odd Trick. London, John Long, 1908.
Three Lovers and One Lass. London, Digby, Long & Co., 1908.
The Dukedom of Portsea. London, T. Werner Laurie, 1909.
The Infatuation of Marcella. London, Digby, Long & Co., 1909.
Her Soul's Desire. London, T. Werner Laurie, 1910.
An Innocent Sinner (serial: Sunday Stories, 1904).London, Digby, Long & Co., 1910.
The Wicked World. London, T. Werner Laurie, 1910.
A Ghost from the Past. London, T. Werner Laurie, 1911.
A Ticket-of-Leave Girl. London, Digby, Long & Co., 1911.

Verse
Ethelwold: An Idyl. London, H. M. Pollett & Co., 1885.

Play
Chiselling Pygmalion (performed in London, Dec 1882)
Love Laughs. A new and original opera in two acts, with music by Edwin C. Such. London, W. Knott, 1904.

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