Kirby, Elizabeth (DNB00)

KIRBY, ELIZABETH (1823–1873), writer for the young, youngest child of John Kirby, manufacturer, of Leicester, by his wife, Sarah Bentley, was born in Southgate Street, Leicester, on 15 Dec. 1823. She displayed at an early age a faculty for storytelling and a taste for literary composition both in verse and prose. In 1854 she published, under the title of 'The Discontented Children,' a story which she had frequently told to small audiences. She removed from Leicester to Norwich in 1855, and the new society and surroundings stimulated her literary zeal. After a few years her younger sister, Mary, married the Rev. Henry Gregg, rector of Brooksby, Leicestershire, and Miss Kirby settled in Melton Mowbray, to share for the rest of her life Mrs. Gregg's home. With her sister she wrote a long series of books for children. Twenty-four volumes under the joint authorship are in the British Museum Library. They are homely and unpretentious little works, written in a style specially calculated to interest children. Among the best are 'The Italian Goldsmiths, a Story of Cellini,' 1861, 16mo; 'Chapters on Trees,' 1873, 8vo; 'Stories about Birds of Land and Water,' 1873, 4to. Two little books on insects, 'Caterpillars, Butterflies, and Moths,' 1857, 18mo, and 'Sketches of Insect Life,' London, 1874, 8vo, embody much original observation. The sisters also published a number of serial tales, including 'The Desboroughs' and 'Deepdale Vicarage,' in various magazines. Miss Kirby's last work, a little story, entitled 'Hold fast by your Sundays,' was published in 1872. She died at Melton Mowbray in June 1873. 'Her literary talents,' says the 'Athenæum,' were at all times exercised for the good, intellectual and moral, of her readers.'

[Information kindly supplied by Mrs. Gregg and the latter's Leaflets from my Life (1887); Athenæum, 12 July 1873; Allibone, Supplement, ii. 956; Miss Kirby's Works.]

T. S.