Jessie Louisa Rickard

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Jessie Louisa Rickard, also known as Mrs Victor Rickard (1876–1963), was an Irish literary novelist. During her lifetime she became a versatile writer who produced over forty novels, some of which found a large reading public.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

She was born in Dublin as Jessica Louisa Moore, younger daughter of Canon Courtenay Moore M.A., V.P.R.S.A.I. (1842–1922), then rector of Castletownroch and later of Brigown, Mitchelstown, co. Cork, a noted antiquarian, founder of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society and a Protestant Home Ruler, editor of the Church of Ireland Gazette and author of two novels.[3][4] She spent her youth in Mitchelstown, and when only 18 (1894) wrote a series of hunting sketches which appeared in the Cork Examiner. They were so popular that she followed with a hunting story, The Price of a Friend, which was accepted as a series by the Irish Times.[2] She married Robert Dudley Innes Ackland, by whom she had a daughter, and later divorced him which caused a rift with her father.

Literary career[edit]

The Last General Absolution of the Munsters at Rue du Bois by Matania. It depicts Victor Rickard mounted on the left

Not until 1912 however, when already aged 36, did she publish her first novel, Young Mr. Gibbs, a light and humorous work. Her next book, Dregs, which appeared in 1914, was a psychological study and was the forerunner of many romantic and sometimes sensational tales marked by great vitality. The word powerful can justly be applied to them and all had evocative titles: The Dark Stranger, Blindfold, Yesterdays Love, Old Sins Have Long Shadows, and A Reckless Puritan.[2] She had married Lieut. Colonel Victor Rickard, a professional officer of the 2nd Battalion Royal Munster Fusiliers who featured prominently in the painting The Last Absolution of the Munsters by the war artist Matania, which depicts the second battalion of the Munsters halting at a wayside shrine at "Rue du Bois" on the eve of the Battle of Aubers Ridge in May 1915, in which Rickard, who led the regiment, was to die with many of his colleagues.[4]

Now widowed and with a son to support, she reverted to writing as a source of income. She first published The Story of the Munsters (1915) which provided the subject for this well-known Matania picture commissioned by her, depicting the Chaplain of the Munsters, Father Francis Gleeson, giving the Munsters their last absolution. She also published a series of articles in New Ireland during 1915 entitled The Irish at the Front, in which New Ireland claimed several soldiers received medals as a result.[5]

Prolific writer[edit]

Beginning with The Light Above the Crossroads (1917), a war novel which went through many editions in America, to Shandon Hall (1950) she wrote over forty novels ranging in genre from light comedy to detective novels which earned her a living as a popular novelist.[2] With a widening reputation, and together with Dorothy Sayers, G. K. Chesterton, Fr. Ronald Knox and others she was a founder member of the Detective Writers' Club.[1] Having moved to England for some years, she was received into the Catholic Church in 1925 by Rev. Joseph Leonard C.M. who at that time was stationed with the Vincentians at Strawberry Hill, London.[1] Most of her novels were published under the name "Mrs Victor Rickard", but she also achieved a reputation with others, as the author of The Pointing Man.[1]

Later life[edit]

Illness and publishing difficulties due to the war brought an end to her industrious output. She came to live at Lower Montenotte in Cork city in 1948 where she wrote her last novel.[1] She made her charming house a salon to which it was always delightful to be invited. It attracted a wide range of interesting people. Mrs. Rickard was a witty woman and a delightful hostess; kind to the young; invariably hospitable; a vivid personality.[2] She was a close friend of Lady Hazel Lavery (1880–1935) who was the subject of her novel A Bird of Strange Plumage (1927). A debiliterating stroke in the nineteen-fifties left her paralysed on one side and she taught herself to write with her left hand, with characteristic courage. In her later years, she lived in the Montenotte home of Denis Gwynn whose wife was a daughter of Lady Lavery by her first marriage.[4]

She died on 28 January 1963 at the age of 86 and is buried in Rathcooney Cemetery, Greater Cork.

Bibliography[edit]

Following are catalogued in the National Library of Ireland:

  • The Story of the Munsters at Etreux, Festubert and Rois du Bois (1916)
  • The Light Above the Cross Roads (1918)
  • The House of Courage (1919)
  • Sorel's Second Husband (1936)
  • White Satin (1945)
  • Shandon Hall (1950)

The following is a list of books which she wrote

  • Young Mr Gibbs (1912)
  • Dregs (1914)
  • The Story of the Munsters (1916)
  • The House of Courage (1918 or 1919)
  • The Light Above the Cross Roads (1918, or poss. 1916)
  • The Fire of Green Boughs (1919, or poss. 1917)
  • Cathy Rossiter (1920)
  • A Reckless Puritan (1921)
  • A Fool's Errand (1921)
  • Blindfold (1922)
  • Without Justification (1923)
  • Old Sins have Long Shadows (1924)
  • Upstairs (1926)
  • Not Sufficient Evidence (1926)
  • A Bird of Strange Plumage (1927)
  • The Perilous Elopement (1928)
  • The Mystery of Vincent Dane (1929)
  • The Empty Villa (1930)
  • The Dark Stranger (1930)
  • Yesterday's Love (1931)
  • Young Mrs Henniker (1931)
  • Spring Hill (1932)
  • Sorel's Second Husband (1932)
  • The Young Man in Question (1933)
  • Sensation at Blue Harbour (1934)
  • House Party (1935)
  • Murder by Night (1936)
  • White Satin (1945)
  • Shandon Hall (1950)
  • Ascendancy House (undated)
  • The Light that Lies (undated)
  • The Passionate City (undated)
  • The Frantic Boast (undated)
  • The Guests of Chance (undated)
  • The Scarlet Sin (undated)
  • The Pointing Man (undated)

Other publications:

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Cork Examiner 30 Jan 1963, Obituary
  2. ^ a b c d e Irish Times 30 Jan 1963, Obituary
  3. ^ Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, Vol. XXVIII, pgs 42-3
  4. ^ a b c Cadogan, Tim & Falvey, Jeremiah: A Biographical Dictionary of Cork, Four Courts Press (2006) ISBN 1-84682-030-8
  5. ^ Maume, Patrick: The long Gestation, Irish Nationalist Life 1891–1918, p.155, Gill & Macmillan (1999) ISBN 0-7171-2744-3