By: Joseph Jacobs
English novelist and poet; born Nov. 10, 1861, in London; died there Sept. 10, 1899. Verse written by her before she was eight years of age gave evidence of high literary talent. By the time she had entered her teens she had produced a considerable number of verses, essays, plays, and short stories characterized by a steady and rapid increase in significance and power; one of her poems written at the end of that period was published in the quarterly known as the "Pelican." In 1876 the family moved to Brighton, where she attended the high school. It was while at school that she wrote "Xantippe," a scathing defense in verse of Socrates' spouse from a modern standpoint—a remarkable achievement for a school-girl in her teens.
On leaving school Amy Levy spent two years at Girton College, Cambridge, working fitfully at the prescribed studies, but doing much reading and writing. During her first term there a story of hers came out in "Temple Bar," and a little later "Xantippe and Other Poems" was published in three volumes. Then came a winter in Dresden, and on her return to London she occupied herself with teaching and writing. "The Minor Poet," published in 1882, is tinged with sadness and with suggestions of autobiography. The third and last volume of her poems, "A London Plane Tree," appeared after her death. As pure literature all three volumes have a distinctive charm. Her first novel, the "Romance of a Shop," and a short story, "Miss Meredith," were published in 1886, after a winter spent in Florence; and in 1888 "Reuben Sachs" appeared. The last-named work presents some of the less pleasing aspects ofthe Jewish character, and the vivid writing of the exquisitely imagined story makes regret more keen that the author's outlook on her people was so limited.
- Dictionary of National Biography.