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Harriet Parr

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Published : 48 Articles
Pen Names : HolmeLee
Date of Birth : N/A
Death : N/A
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Parr, Harriet I Miss Lee, Miss Parr l, 1828–1900, novelist. Born and educated in York. Contributed to Titan, National Magazine, People's Magazine, and other periodicals. One of her stories in Victoria Regia. Under pseudonym "Holme Lee" published between 1854 and 1883wme thirty novels and collections of stories, e.g., Maude Tulbot, Gilbert Massenger, Kathie Brande, Sylvan Halt's Daughter, Legends from Fairy Land; some of novels very popular in lending libraries. Under her own name, published three historical and biographical works. Described by Allingham, who met her at a social gathering in 1868, as looking "like a quiet little old-maidish governess" (Diary, p. 178).


In 1855 Miss Parr submitted Gilbert Massenger to H.W. Dickens found the novel "masterly." He read it, he wrote to the author, "with the strongest emotion – and with a very exalted admiration of the great power displayed in it"; it moved him deeply and, indeed, "completely unsettled" him for the day. Two considerations, however, prevented his accepting the novel for H.W. – its length and its subject. The length, stated Dickens, was the basic obstacle. By 1855, however, he had already published two novels in H. W. and was later to publish others. Clearly, it was the subject – hereditary insanity – that determined his rejection. The story, he wrote, would awaken fear and despair in readers who were in some way linked "to a similar terrible possibility – or even probability" (to Miss Parr, Aug. 14; to Wills; July 22, 1855). Hereditary insanity was the subject of two of Miss Parr's contributions that were accepted for H.W. – one of the stories in "Milverston Worthies" [XIV, 13–16. July 19, 1856 and 59–62. Aug. 2, 1856] and the poem "Hawkswell Place" [XIV, 130–33. Aug. 23, 1856]; these presentations, however, were probably considered not personal or powerful enough to awaken great fear or despair.
      In his letter to Miss Parr concerning Gilbert Massenger, Dickens expressed the hope that she would become a H.W. contributor. It seems, however, that she had already become a contributor, under her pseudonym.
      Four prose items listed as not reprinted are assigned in the Office Book to "Miss Lee" ["The Poor Pensioner", (Christmas 1855); "Madame Freschon's", XIII, 353–59. Aril 26, 1856; "My Blind Sister", XIII, 457–61. May 31, 1856; and "Milverton Worthies"]. Various women writers named Lee flourished at the time; nevertheless, the "Miss Lee" of the Office Book seems clearly to be "Holme Lee." There is similarity between the items assigned to "Miss Lee" and some of those assigned to Miss Parr: "Madame Grondet's" [X, 140–44. Sept, 23m 1854] and "Madame Freschon's" [XIII, 353–59. April 26, 1856] both describe, in first person, a young English girl's stay in a French boarding school; "A Very Little Town" [XI, 209–13. March 31, 1855] and "A Very Little House" [XI, 470–74. June 16, 1855] have some similarity in content, attitude, and manner of treatment with "The Post-Mistress" [XII, 305–09. Oct. 27, 1855] and some parts of "Milverston Worthies." After Dickens's correspondence with Miss Parr concerning Gilbert Massenger, "Miss Lee" does not again appear in the Office Book. Nonesuch Letters,II, 587n, identifies the author of the "Madame Grondet" sketches as "Holme Lee," but does not substantiate the identification.
      Dickens made occasional minor alterations in some of Miss Parr's contributions. "Holidays at Madame Grondet's" [X, 140–44. Sept. 23, 1854] he referred to as being "good and true" (to Wills, Oct. 6, 1854: MS Huntington Library).
      On the basis of a passage in Forster's Life (Book XI, sect. iii), the hymn that concludes Miss Parr's "Poor Dick's Story," [Christmas 1856] in "The Wreck of the Golden Mary," has been attributed to Dickens. Forster states that Dickens received a letter from a clergyman who "had been struck by the hymn" and that Dickens acknowledged the letter thus: "I beg to thank you for your very acceptable letter – not the less gratifying to me because I am myself the writer you refer to .... " (For B. W. Matz's interpretation of the passage in Forster, see "A Child's Hymn," Dickensian, May 1916.) Offsetting that statement is the fact that the H.W. hymn attracted the attention of Dr. Henry Allon when he was editing the New Congregational Hymn Book in 1856–57, that Allon applied to Dickens for permission to include the hymn in the collection, and that Dickens referred him to Miss Parr as author (see S. W. Duffield, English Hymns: Their Authors and History, 1886; Dickensian, July 1916, pp. 192–93). The hymn was duly included in the Hymn Book, 1859, credited to Miss Parr. In the following year, Miss Parr reprinted, with but minor changes, the story in which the hymn appears. The hymn seems to be Miss Parr's writing.
      Miss Parr contributed also to A.Y.R.
                                                                     D.N.B. suppl. 1901

Author: Anne Lohrli; © University of Toronto Press, 1971 

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

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