As Britain prepared to mark
the Jubilee of Queen Victoria, Christ Church, St. Pancras, located just east of Regents Park, marked its half century with
the publication of a small book. Canon Henry W. Burrows began his 1887 account:
“While the Jubilee of the Queen is causing the nation to review
the last fifty years in many different aspects, the parishioners of Christ Church, Albany Street, St. Pancras, are induced
to take a parochial view of the last half century, by the fact of the Jubilee of their church coinciding within a few days,
with that of the Queen.”
Burrows concluded his history with a list of “some of the remarkable people who have lived in the district, or attended the church.”
On this list and scattered throughout the text are references to several women writers: Maria Francesca
Rossetti, Sarah Windsor Tomlinson, Sara Coleridge, Christina Rossetti, Margaret Oliphant, and Evelyn Whitaker.
After a brief survey of the better known women writers, I
will present an overview of my research into the life and writings of Evelyn Whitaker. In 1887, at age
43 years, Evelyn Whitaker was the youngest woman and is the least familiar name on Burrow’s list. She
anonymously published at least twenty-three books “by the author of Miss Toosey’s Mission” and authored
(or perhaps co-authored with her younger sister, Florence Whitaker) an additional dozen or so books “by the author [“authors”
in some editions] of Honor Bright.” Her name first appeared on the title page of Gay.
A story. in 1903. How did an anonymous writer merit inclusion in this 1887 list of St. Pancras literati?
This paper will argue that the answer may be found in another small book published at the time of the Jubilee.
As Burrow’s history
of Christ Church went to press so did a slim volume by Evelyn Whitaker. Her Letters to Our Working Party
focused on East London missions, the plight of the urban poor, and the trials of the working class. In
this book as in her “stories” and “tales”, Evelyn Whitaker described and commented on transportation,
industrialization, religion and sectarianism, books and literacy, education (particularly the education of women), parenting
and family relationships, and the opportunities available to children of the lower and middle classes. She
spoke to issues of public health and advocated for professional nurses. Her “charming stories,
well told” are “a study in English for its conciseness, simplicity, and elegance.” Although
these quotations are from reviews and publishers blurbs, they are not mere puffery but were affirmed by the adoption of Whitaker’s
first full length novel, Tip Cat, as an English text by German and French universities. With the
recent issue of several Whitaker texts by the British Library Historical Collections, her writings are now receiving well
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