ANGELA THIRKELL (1890–1961)
Angela Margaret Mackail was born on January 30, 1890, at 27 Young Street, Kensington Square, London. Her grandfather was Sir Edward Burne-Jones the pre-Raphaelite painter and partner in the design firm of Morris and Company for whom he designed many stained glass windows—seven of which are in St Margaret’s Church in Rottingdean, West Sussex. Her grandmother was Georgiana Macdonald, one of a precocious family which included among others, Stanley Baldwin, the Prime Minister, and Rudyard Kipling. Angela’s brother, Denis Mackail, was also a prolific and successful novelist. Angela’s mother, Margaret Burne-Jones, married John Mackail—an administrator at the Ministry of Education and Professor of Poetry at Oxford University.
Angela married James Campbell McInnes in 1911. James was a professional baritone and performed at concert halls throughout the UK. In 1912 their first son Graham was born and in 1914 a second son, Colin. A daughter was born in 1917 at the same time her marriage was breaking up. In November 1917 a divorce was granted and Angela and the children went to live with her parents in Pembroke Gardens in London. The child, Mary, died the next year.
Angela then met and married George Lancelot Thirkell in 1918 and in 1920 they traveled on a troopship to George’s hometown in Australia. Their adventures on the ship Friedricksruh are recounted in her Trooper to the Southern Cross, published in 1934. In 1921, in Melbourne Australia, her youngest son Lancelot George was born. Angela left Australia in 1929 with eight-year-old Lance and never returned. Although living with her parents in London, she badly needed to earn a living, so she set forth on the difficult road of the professional writer. Her first book, Three Houses, a memoir of her happy childhood was published in 1931 and was an immediate success. She wrote twenty-nine novels set in Anthony Trollope’s mythical county of Barsetshire.
Angela also wrote a book of children’s stories entitled The Grateful Sparrow using Ludwig Richter’s illustrations; a biography of Harriette Wilson, The Fortunes of Harriette; a historical novel, Coronation Summer, an account of the events in London during Queen Victoria’s Coronation in 1838; and three semi-autobiographical novels, Ankle Deep, Oh, These Men, These Men!, and Trooper to the Southern Cross. When Angela died on the 29th of January 1961 she left unfinished the last of her books, Three Score and Ten which was completed by her friend, Caroline Lejeune. Angela is buried in Rottingdean alongside her daughter Mary and her Burne-Jones grandparents.