Jessie Louisa Rickard (1876 – 1963)


mrs-rickardJessie Louisa Rickard, also known as Mrs Victor Rickard (1876–1963), was an Irish literary novelist. During her lifetime she became a versatile writer who produced over forty novels, some of which found a large reading public.

She was born in Dublin as Jessica Louisa (Louie) Moore, younger daughter of Canon Courtenay Moore M.A. She spent her youth in Mitchelstown, and when only 18 (1894) wrote a series of hunting sketches which appeared in the Cork Examiner. She married Robert Dudley Innes Ackland, by whom she had a daughter, and later divorced him, which caused a rift with her father. She next married Lieut. Colonel Victor Rickard, (Roman Catholic) a professional officer of the 2nd Battalion Royal Munster Fusiliers who featured prominently in the painting ‘The Last Absolution of the Munsters’ by the war artist Matania. Lieut. Colonel Victor Rickard was KIA 9 May 1915.

Not until 1912 however, when already aged 36, did she publish her first novel, Young Mr. Gibbs, a light and humorous work. Her next book, Dregs, which appeared in 1914, was a psychological study and was the forerunner of many romantic and sometimes sensational tales marked by great vitality. The word powerful can justly be applied to them and all had evocative titles: The Dark Stranger, Blindfold, Yesterdays Love, Old Sins Have Long Shadows, and A Reckless Puritan.

Now widowed and with a son to support, she reverted to writing as a source of  income. She first published The Story of the Munsters (1915) which provided  the subject for this well-known Matania picture, depicting the Chaplain of the  Munsters, Father Francis Gleeson, giving the Munsters their last absolution.  She also published a series of articles in New Ireland during 1915 entitled The  Irish at the Front, in which New Ireland claimed several soldiers received  medals as a result.

Beginning with Young Mr Gibbs (1911) to Shandon Hall (1950) she wrote over forty novels ranging in genre from light comedy to detective novels which earned her a living as a popular novelist. With a widening reputation, and together with Dorothy Sayers, G. K. Chesterton, Fr. Ronald Knox and others she was a founder member of the Detection Club. Having moved to England for some years, she was received into the Catholic Church in 1925 by Rev. Joseph Leonard C.M. who at that time was stationed with the Vincentians at Strawberry Hill, London. Most of her novels were published under the name “Mrs Victor Rickard”, but she also achieved a reputation with others, as the author of The Pointing Man.

Illness and publishing difficulties due to the war brought an end to her industrious output. She came to live at Lower Montenotte in Cork city in 1948 where she wrote her last novel. She was a close friend of Lady Hazel Lavery (1880–1935). A debilitating stroke in the nineteen-fifties left her paralysed on one side and she taught herself to write with her left hand, with characteristic courage. In her later years, she lived in the Montenotte home of Denis Gwynn whose wife was a daughter of Lady Lavery by her first marriage. She died on 28 January 1963 at the age of 86 and is buried in Rathcooney Cemetery, Greater Cork. (Source: Wikipedia)

Her contribution to the detective genre was modest. Her most noteworthy crime novel, Not Sufficient Evidence, published four years before the Detection Club’s foundation, was based on the Bravo case. (Martin Edwards, The Golden Age of Murder. Page 256n.)

md9508016515Louie’s novel A Fool’s Errand (1921), introduced crime and adventure elements into her oeuvre, yet it was not until the mid-Twenties, with Upstairs (1925) and Not Sufficient Evidence (1926), the latter drawn from the real life Charles Bravo case, that Louie Rickard really made a splash in crime fiction.  Other novels by her with definite criminous aspects are The Mystery of Vincent Dane (1929, The Baccarat Club in the US), The Dark Stranger (1930), The Empty Villa (1930) and Murder by Night (1936). Jessie Moore Rickard published at least 26 novels between 1912 and 1936, roughly one a year.  After the publication of Murder by Night, however, Louie’s production declined drastically. (Source: The Passing Tramp)

“That Mysterious Individual Mrs. Victor Rickard”: Jessie Louisa Rickard (1876-1963), Crime Writer?

Further reading: Jessie Louisa Rickard – 1876-1963 and The Forgotten Mrs Victor Rickard.

Excerpt from A Fool’s Errand: Quentin Dillon was back in London again, suffering from a sense of general flatness. There seemed to be no more ups and downs or tremendous moments left in life. The waves of war had receded, and the feverish exaltations, the queerly inconsequent intricacies, and all the horror, as well as much of the zest of the past, had vanished quietly and was no longer there.
If fete days ask for to-morrow, it is also true that misery, and the terrible intoxication of a long ordeal, makes its demand for some thing further, to stir the soul. Though he had once longed for a renewal of the old order of things, he did not know then that change had touched him with a strong, formative hand, and a gap wider than years alone separated the old Quentin Dillon from the man who stared out of the window of his club in Pall Mall. (Source: Amazon)

Picture: A Fool’s Errand. Mrs. Victor Rickard. New York: George H. Doran, (1921). First edition. Original dust jacket.

This was the only one of her detective stories I have been able to find in the Internet.

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