Sydney C. Grier

(Hilda Caroline Gregg)

In This Collection

In Preparation

  • The Great Proconsul: the Memoirs of Mrs. Hester Ward, formerly in the family of Hon’ble Warren Hastings. Edinburgh: Blackwood, 1904.

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“Sydney C. Grier”

Miss Hilda Caroline Gregg. who died at Eastbourne on Thursday, two days after her 65th birthday. wrote many excellent novels under her pen-name of “Sydney C. Grier.”

Life under various conditions in different parts of the world was what inspired her stories, and in all of them there was the same realistic touch, the unlaboured attention to seemingly careless detail, the same power of seeing through the eyes of widely different races. Thus “His Excellency’s English Governess” (1896) was an inmate in an Ottoman household in Mesopotamia: “A Crowned Queen” (1898) had strange adventures among the Slavonic peasants of the Balkans; “The Warden of the Marches” (1901) lived on the frontiers of Afghanistan; “The Heir” (1906) was introduced to family intimacies in the Greek islands and in Macedonia; and in “One Crowded Hour” (1912). the seene of which is laid in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies during the last few months of its independence, the descriptions of the existence led by noble Neapolitan young ladies are as vivid as similar passages in “The Prize” (1910).

In “The Path to Honour” (1909) and “The Keepers of the Gate” (1911) we are introduced to Colonel Charteris, a man of remarkable gifts. In a sequel. “Writ in Water” (1913), he has become Sir Robert and is governor of a tropical island peopled by negroes. He suppresses a dangerous native rising, but agitators at home denounce him as a monster of cruelty and he is recalled and prosecuted. Ultimately he is vindicated against all the arts of Padgett, M.P. Many other stories, such as “Like Another Helen,” exhibited Miss Grier’s gift of vivid narration of romantic adventure which won for her a large and faithful public. In addition to her novels she edited the letters of Warren Hastings to his wife.

The eldest child of the Rev. J. R. Gregg, vicar of St. Nicholas, Deptford, she was born in Gloucestershire on June 20, 1868. Educated at home and at a private school, she graduated B.A. at London University and was for some years engaged in teaching. But she had written steadily since 1881, and her first short story appeared in 1886.

The funeral will be at Nunhead Cemetery tomorrow at 12.30, and there will be a memorial service at All Saints’, Eastbourne.

The Times, 26 June 1933, p. 16

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Gregg, Hilda Caroline [pseud. Sydney C. Grier] (1868–1933), novelist and short-story writer, was born at Badgington (Bagendon), North Cerney, Gloucestershire, on 20 June 1868, the eldest of the four daughters of Sarah Caroline Frances French (d. 1913) and John Robert G. Gregg (d. 1882), later vicar of Deptford. Hilda Gregg was brought up in a family with strong religious convictions and Irish protestant connections. Her father, descended from a long line of Ulster clergymen, was described by Gregg’s cousin Winifred Peck in her autobiography, A Little Learning, as ‘an Irish clergyman of, I imagine, the strictest sect of Ulster Old Testament Protestants’. Her brother, John Allen Fitzgerald Gregg (1873–1961), became archbishop of Armagh, while her sister, Katherine (b. 1869), one of the first women doctors to qualify in Britain, undertook medical missionary work in Japan and India. Hilda Gregg was educated privately, her only academic distinction being an honorary MA from London University. Her first story was published in the Bristol Times in 1886, the year in which she moved to 27 St Anne’s Road, Eastbourne, to look after her widowed mother. She began writing for a living, spurred on by financial need as well as by a subsequent success in a short-story competition run by Cassell’s Family Magazine. Over the next three decades her short fiction and novels featured in a variety of genteel literary periodicals, including Cassell’s, Argosy, the Lady’s Realm, and the Girl’s Own Paper. In 1894 Gregg sent her first novel, In Furthest Ind, a fictional memoir of a seventeenth-century Englishman’s adventures in India, on speculation to the Edinburgh firm of William Blackwood, who published it in 1895 under the pseudonym of Sydney C. Grier. Blackwood remained her publisher throughout her writing career. In Furthest Ind, praised for its seemingly first-hand knowledge of locale and its skilful dialogue, set the tone and style for Gregg’s subsequent works, which she produced at a rate of one a year until 1925. Gregg followed In Furthest Ind with His Excellency’s English Governess (1896), a historical romance set in Baghdad, and then with An Uncrowned King, serialized in Blackwood’s Magazine between December 1895 and September 1896, and A Crowned Queen (1898), both historical romances set in the Balkans. Other locales featured in her thirty-three novels included Ethiopia (Peace with Honour, 1897), Bengal (Like another Helen, 1899), Afghanistan (The Wardens of the Marches, 1901), and Sicily (One Crowded Hour, 1912). Gregg died on 22 June 1933 at 48 St Leonards Road, Eastbourne, her home since 1926, leaving an estate valued at slightly over £4200.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography