Meade, L. T. (Elizabeth (‘Lillie’) Thomasina Toulmin Smith) (1844?–1914), novelist, was born in Bandon, Co. Cork, daughter of Richard Thomas Meade, clergyman, and Sarah Meade (née Lane). Reared in Nohaval, near Kinsale, Co. Cork, where her father was Church of Ireland rector, she was educated by a governess and probably went to a girls’ school for a time. Her first novel, Ashton-Morton, appeared anonymously in 1866, and she did not appear again in print until moving to Bishopsgate, London, in 1874 after the death of her mother and her father’s remarriage. Encouraged to write by the doctor and his wife with whom she lived, she became one of the most prolific English-language writers of the period; over a forty-year career she wrote nearly 300 books, production peaking at an average of eleven titles per year in the decade after 1900. All appeared under variations of her maiden name, such as ‘Elizabeth Thomas’ or, latterly and primarily, as ‘L. T. Meade’. As some of the title pages lack dates, exact sequencing of her œuvre is problematic. Working regularly in the British Museum, she published in America as well as in Britain. Although she wrote five volumes of science fiction, six volumes of crime stories in collaboration with Robert Eustace, and social-protest fiction, she was best known for her large output of fiction for and about adolescent girls and young women. A world of girls (1886), her most consequential work, achieved huge success and initiated a trend in narratives with a school setting; her many books in this genre influenced such later and better known writers as Angela Brazil and Enid Blyton. One of her most popular books, Daddy's boy (1887), was based on her own son. Works such as A princess of the gutter (1895) and Good luck (1896) illustrate a predilection for closely observing life in London's East End with the intention of incorporating social realism into her writing.
For eleven years (1887–98) Meade edited Atalanta, a sophisticated literary periodical for girls, encouraging readers to write, to engage in paid employment, and to cultivate intellectual interests. However, some feminist critics have characterised her fiction as reinforcing traditional gender stereotypes. Late in life she began to write more about Ireland. At the back of the world (1904), a sentimental account of the people of the Co. Cork coast, typifies her tendency to portray a nostalgic image of Ireland. The rebel of the school (1902), about the disruptive influence of an Anglo-Irish pupil in an English girls' school, had contemporary political resonances with its secret societies, informers, and patronising liberal establishment. Meade married (1879) Alfred Toulmin Smith, a solicitor; they had one son and two daughters. They resided in Dulwich and later retired to Oxford. A portrait photograph appeared as frontispiece in many of her published volumes. She died in Oxford on 27 October 1914.