Annie French Hector

Life
1825-1902 [occas. pseud. ‘Mrs Alexander’]; neé French; b. Dublin; m. Alexander Hector; vastly successful novelist with 40 books including the Wooing of O’t (1873), and Blind Fate (1891); A Choice of Evils (1895), and Kitty Costello, semi-autobiographical (1902). ODNB DIB DIW SUTH OCIL

[ top ]

Commentary
Forrest Reid, Apostate (1926), writes: ‘Does anybody nowadays read the romances of Jessie Fothergill, of Helen Mather, of Mrs Alexander? These were the books adored by my sister, the books I saw lying about the house - Healey, Probation (Cherry Ripe, Her Dearest Foe, The Wooing O’t). Yet Dame Durden was the most beautiful novel ever written. My sister mentioned this casually one day after dinner, and it never occurred to me to question the statement, so I need not question it now.’ (See Patricia Craig, Rattle of the North, 1992.)

[ top ]

Margaret Kelleher, ‘Prose Writing and Drama in English; 1830-1890 […]’, in Cambridge History of Irish Literature, ed. Kelleher & Philip O’Leary (Cambridge UP 2006), Vol. 1 [Chap. 11]: ‘Hector (1825-1902), who wrote as “Mrs Alexander”, was the author of over forty novels and, while of conventional plot, featuring sensational disappearances, reappearances and happy endings, they also include extended engagements with contemporary discourses on marriage and divorce, most notably in her novel A Choice of Evils, published in 1894. […] Of Hector’s forty novels, only one has an explicitly Irish setting: Kitty Costello (1902), a quasi-autobiographical novel, detailing a young Irish girl’s move to London, and completed just before its author’s death.’ (p.473.) Further: ‘Of Hector’s forty novels, only one has an explicitly Irish setting: Kitty Costello (1902), a quasi-autobiographical novel, detailing a young Irish girl’s move to London, and completed just before its author’s death.’ (Kelleher, op. cit., p.473 [idem.].)

[ top ]

References
Stephen Brown, Ireland in Fiction (Dublin: Maunsel 1919), lists Kitty Costello under Mrs. Alexander, last novel; well-born Irish girl suddenly plunged into English sea-port commercial life, 1840’s, with contrasts of English and Irish mentalities; contains memoir-introduction.

[ top ]

Dictionary of National Biography gives bio-details: dg. Robert French, Dublin solicitor; settled with parents in London; friend of W. H. Wills, m. explorer and archaeologist [Alexander H.]; lived in Germany and France, 1876-82; best known novel, The Wooing of o’t (1873), and forty others.

[ top ]

John Sutherland, The Longman Companion to Victorian Fiction (Harlow: Longmans 1988); dg; Dublin solicitor, related on mother’s side to Jeremy Taylor and Edmund Malone; father lost his money in 1844 and moved to Liverpool, settling in London; visited Ireland only once; helped by S. C. Hall and W. H. Wills, Dicken’s co-editor on Household Words; early anon; novels sank; married Alexander Hector, an explorer whose health failed; Look Before you Leap (1865), a story of an officer who elopes with a supposed heiress, treats her harshly, but is reconciled; v; popular; Which Shall It Be? (1866) in which Madeleine, who sets up as a governess, is almost abducted by a Frenchman on a train, and ends up marrying a tall Englishman; The Wooing O’t, partly set in Paris [Sutherland qv.] follows love affairs of Maggie Grey; Husband died in 1875; wrote over forty novels, writing as Mrs. Alexander; Her Dearest Foe (1876) written during mourning, features a mourning widow who defeats a rival heir and then marries him; The Freres (1882), genteel poverty in London; A Choice of Evils (1894) nods towards the fashionable new woman novel; in it a ‘dead’ spouse comes back from the grave; Barbara, Lady’s Maid and Peeress (1898), inheritance romance; Through Fire to Fortune (1900), heroine escapes drudgery when thought killed in a fire; Kitty Costello (1904) is a revealing autobiography, written when her nerves were exhausted, the story of an ingenuous Irish girl’s introduction to English society in the 1840s; Typically her fiction revolves around a young girl torn between money, family, and love, complicated by a legacy; strong benevolent providence. See also separate entry on Wooing: novel serialised in Temple Bar (June 1872-73); plausible Victorian Cinderella story; Maggie is an orphan lodging in London with sharp-tongued aunt and ineffectual John, a pharmicist; finds work as companion and goes to Paris with Mrs; Berry; refuses proposal of English Lord Torchester; wooed by his cousin, Geoffrey Trafford; Trafford is ruined, become lawyer and marries Maggie instead of heiress Miss Grantham.

[ top ]

Elaine Showalter, A Literature of their Own (1984); Bio-note, 1825-1002; journalist and novelist; pseud. Mrs Alexander; b. Dublin, only child of a solicitor; ed. at home by governesses, m. 1858, 4 children; published 41 novels after death of husband in 1875; first novel, Kate Vernon (1854).

[ top ]

Booksellers: Eggeling Books (Cat. 44) lists The Heritage of Langdale (Hutchinson c.1898), rpt. vvi, 425pp., novel of Jacobite plots in London and home counties; not Ireland. Eric Stevens 1992) lists lists The Wooing of O’t [3 vol. novel, 1st ed.] (London: Bentley 1873) [55].

[ top ]