She was the daughter of Frederick Philip Ansle, a wine merchant, and his second wife Mary, nee Embling and one of at least five children, two of whom died as infants in 1888. The surviving siblings were Linda Mary Embling Phillipps (daughter of Mary and her first husband Jeremiah Schuppe Phillipps, a bookseller who died aged just 29 in 1871), and Mary Rose Ansle. Phoebe was the youngest.
Her father was born in 1838 in Bishopstoke, Southampton but, although he should have been recorded in the 1841 census, no trace has yet been found. In 1851, he was living with an aunt & uncle and it seems likely that his aunt Mary was his father’s sister. Her marriage record gives her surname as Ansell (rather than Ansle) so it is probable that the name was pronounced An-Sul rather than Ans-Lee. Originally trading as a butcher, he switched commercial tracks later in life becoming first a manager to a firm of Wine Merchants before then trading as a merchant himself. In 1884, a newspaper reference shows the transfer of the Railway Refreshment Rooms at 69 High St, Ventnor to his name.
Phoebe’s mother, born in Brighton in 1850, was the daughter of William & Amelia Ann Embling; he from Petworth and she from Yapton, in Sussex. In 1911, an older sister of Mary Embling (Fanny Amelia) was living with the Ansle family in Sandown, Isle of Wight. By this stage, Mary Ansle was a widow. Frederick Ansle died on 9th August 1897 at the York Hotel, Sandown, his death being announced in the local paper.
In 1891, Phoebe appears in the census at 69 High St, Ventnor, Isle of Wight and the image below would no doubt have been familiar in her childhood. The image is by Detroit Publishing Co., under license from Photoglob Zürich and shows the Esplanade at Ventnor in about 1899.
“Ventnor’s fortunes were transformed in the 1830’s when a report by eminent physician Sir James Clark extolled the beneficial healing qualities of the climate and waters. Almost overnight, Ventnor became a very fashionable destination and health resort – Hygeia, goddess of health, still decorates the Welcome signs as you enter the town. Building work soon flourished, and the population ballooned from under a hundred in 1810 to nearly one thousand by 1840. This figure had tripled by 1851 and reached almost six thousand by 1900.” http://www.ventnor-iw.co.uk/history.html
69 High Street is today a car park but the houses opposite may give some indication of what it might have been like.
In the following census, Phoebe is a pupil at the School, leaving in 1906 and going onto to some further education in Caversham. By 1911, she had returned to her mother who was by then running a boarding house in Sandown, isle of Wight. Curiously, a postcard image of the house (Blenheim, Leed St, Sandown) was found on a Russian eBay site!
By 1912, however, Phoebe gave her address as either Netherleigh House or Netherleigh Close, Hornsey Lane, Highgate and it is probably from this address that she attended Ex-Pupils’ Day in 1912, the first since the Old Masonic Girls’ Association (OMGA) had been formed.
At some point, she married Francis Ignatius Keogh and the marriage may have taken place in his native Ireland (Dublin). By 1927, the Keoghs were living in Brixton Hill, London. In 1911 he was recorded in the Dublin census as a church assistant and living with a number of his siblings in Dublin.
Phoebe began to be published in about 1928, clocking up at least 104 titles as Hebe Elsna, mostly romantic fiction (hence the allusion in the title of this posting).
She continued to write under this pseudonym until 1982. In the meantime, starting in 1936 she began writing as Vicky Lancaster (44 titles), as Lyndon Snow between 1940 and 1979 (68 titles) and as Laura Conway from 1936 to 1992 (64 titles). She was writing over a period of 60+ years and produced at least 280 titles! Mostly they were romances, some historical, but there was at least one (presumably) non-fiction: Unwanted Wife: A defence of Mrs. Charles Dickens, published in 1963.
Later in life, she and her husband moved first to Surrey and then to Hove. It was here in 1965 that Francis died on 7th April at Sevendean Hospital. Their residence was given as 181 New Church Rd, Hove. Probate of £2,280.was granted to Phoebe, who continued to live in the area until her own demise in 1983, on 7th January at 2 Raphael Rd, Hove.
2 Raphael Rd is the one on the left of the image, sadly in a poor state today. The house on the right gives an indication of how it might have looked in its glory days – and perhaps will again in the future. Now that would be a happy ever after!