About Me

Annie Keary's Biography (Books)

To Authors Index

Anna Maria (Annie) Keary (3 March 1825 - 3 March 1879) was an English novelist and poet, and an innovative children's writer.

Born at the rectory in Bilton, now called Bilton-in-Ainsty, Yorkshire, Annie was the daughter of a former army chaplain, William Keary, who came from County Galway in Ireland, and his wife, Lucy Plumer, of Bilton Hall. She was educated at home. She suffered from poor health and slight deafness.

Her father later became incumbent of Sculcoates, near Hull, and simultaneously of Nunnington in North Yorkshire, where the family moved. Then, when Annie was twenty, came another move to Clifton near Bristol, due to her father's declining health. Their relationship was close, and her father gave her much of the information about Ireland that she would later incorporate into her novels. Keary moved in 1848 to keep house for a widowed brother in Staffordshire, who had three children. Six happy years came to an end when her brother remarried. Soon after, she lost two other beloved brothers, and a long engagement was broken off.

Annie's sister Eliza (see section below) wrote a memoir of Annie after her death in Eastbourne in 1879.

The memoir relates how Eliza accompanied the frail Annie to Egypt and to Cannes to do research for her books. The sisters also helped to run a home for unemployed servant girls in Pimlico. They were befriended by the novelist Charles Kingsley and his family. The dominant considerations in her life were family ties. She nursed her mother in her last illness in 1869 and later looked after four young cousins whose parents were in India.


Annie Keary's first children's book appeared in 1856, the year after her father died. Her third, The Heroes of Asgard (1857), was the first of three on which she collaborated with her sister Eliza. The Rival Kings (1858) broke new ground for a children's book in featuring rival children's gangs and their hatred for each other.

She continued to write children's and educational books, for instance Early Egyptian History (1861) and The Nation Around (1870), but she branched out in 1859 into adult fiction with Through the Shadows (1859), although a measure of fame had to wait until Castle Daly: The Story of an Irish Home Thirty Years Ago (1875), which was reprinted several times up to the end of the 1880s. It portrays the Great Famine and the Young Irelanders' Uprising, and was serialized initially in Macmillan's Magazine. Oldbury (1869) is set in the little town in which she was raised. She collaborated with her sisters Eliza and Maud on Enchanted Tulips and Other Verses for Children, but this does not seem to have been published until 1914.

Her final novel, A Doubting Heart (1879) was completed by a friend, Mrs K. Macquoid. Like her earlier work for adults, it shows signs of being stretched to fill the three volumes required by the publishing trade in those days, although the characterizations and sense of place are strong. A facsimile of the 1886 edition of Castle Daly... appeared in Volume 5 of Irish Women's Writing, 1838-1888.

Eliza Harriett Keary (1827-1918)

Apart from her collaborations with Annie Keary and her memoir of her, Eliza wrote poetry, which was published at the time, and has received some recent attention from feminist scholars. She died in Torquay in 1918. Her nephew Charles Francis Keary (1848-1917), also an author, publishing a novel, Bloomsbury, and numismatic studies and catalogues.

To Authors Index