Partner Helen Marion Burnside
Sandilands, Keswick Rd, Putney, London SW15, UK
Hampstead Cemetery, Fortune Green Rd, West Hampstead, London NW6 1DR
Rosa Nouchette Carey (27 September 1840 – 9 July 1909) was an English children's writer and popular novelist, whose works reflected the values of her time and were thought of as wholesome for girls. However, they are "not entirely bereft of grit and realism."
Born in Stratford-le-Bow, Rosa was the sixth of the seven children of William Henry Carey (died 1867), shipbroker, and his wife, Maria Jane (died 1870), daughter of Edward J. Wooddill. She was brought up in London at Tryons Road, Hackney, Middlesex and in South Hampstead. She was educated at home and at the Ladies' Institute, St John's Wood, where she was a contemporary and friend of the German-born poet Mathilde Blind (1841–1896). Her first novel, Nellie's Memories (1868), arose out of stories she had told to her younger sister.
As her writing career expanded after the death of her parents, so did her family responsibilities. When her mother died in 1870, she and an unmarried sister went to keep house for a widowed brother and look after his children. Later the sister married and the brother died, leaving Carey in sole charge of the children. Among her close friends was the prolific novelist Mrs Henry Wood.
For the last twenty or so years of her life Carey appears to have enjoyed a measure of independence, sharing a series of houses in Putney with her close friend Helen Marion Burnside (known for her poetry and her art needlework and a regular contributor to The Girl’s Own Paper, in which they both took an interest) and the by then widowed Mrs. Simpson, whom Sarah Tooley reports as being the practical “Martha” of the household while the other two got on with their writing (1897 p.164). Carey died of lung cancer at her home in Putney on 19 July 1909, and was buried in Hampstead Cemetery, Fortune Green, West Hampstead. Of the two epitaphs over the grave, “Peace Perfect Peace” was possibly her own choice, being one she gave to some of her fictional characters; “She Being Dead Yet Speaketh” seems more likely to have been a tribute added by her family or Helen Marion Burnside.
Nellie's Memories appears to have sold over 50,000 copies. Most of her 33 three-decker novels told pious, domestic stories, thought of as wholesome fiction for girls in the last third of the 19th century. Often sentimental, they reflect the values of the period, "treating housekeeping and woman's caring role as real work." However, her 1869 novel Wee Wifie features vitriol-throwing, opium addiction, and hereditary insanity. Also notable are Carey's sympathetic portrayals of women suffering from mental illness. Several novels suggest mental health can be ensured by "control of the will", as advocated by the psychiatrist Henry Maudsley. One of her books, Heriot's Choice (1879), was serialised in Charlotte M. Yonge's magazine The Monthly Packet and another, Mistress of Brae Farm (1896) in Argosy. She was a less intellectual, religious and humorous writer than Yonge, but placed her characters shrewdly in the populous urban, book-buying middle class.
Carey was on the staff of the Girl's Own Paper, for which she wrote eight serials. She also penned a laudatory biographical collection of Twelve Notable Good Women of the XIXth Century (1899), including Queen Victoria and the Quaker philanthropist and reformer Elizabeth Fry.
The London publisher Macmillan had 18 novels by Carey on their Three-and-Sixpenny Library list in 1902. Some of her books were still being reprinted by the Religious Tract Society in the 1920s. These days there are secondhand and print-on-demand copies available.
There have been doubts about whether Carey was the author of four thrillers published under the pseudonym Le Voleur in the 1890s.
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