Saturday, September 7, 2013

A middlebrow tidbit

Last week, trying to find more information about a writer (I can’t even remember which one now), a routine Amazon search produced The New Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature, Volume 4: 1900-1950 as a result.  Seeing as it was published in 1972 and is wildly outdated for contemporary researchers, it was a bargain at $4.00 including shipping.  I figured there was a chance it would be useless as far as information about lesser-known women writers, but it might still be of some historical interest, and at that price it was hard to resist.  (At this rate, I’ll soon have my very own reference library.)

The book arrived yesterday, and I thought I’d share some of its more interesting points here.

First, some background.  The book basically is, as its title says, a bibliography.  Meaning it primarily lists works by and about British writers who were prominent between 1900 and 1950.  There are no details about the works, and no biographical information—just works and dates.  But this allows the book to condense into a relatively small package a plethora of information on what was, in effect, the state of the British canon circa 1972.  It’s not a book I’ll be likely to pour over for weeks on end, but it is an interesting snapshot of what writers from the period were considered significant four decades ago.

It’s certainly unsurprising that the book disproportionately favors male writers.  Roughly 80% of the writers shown under “The Novel” are men.  But 20% women is perhaps a pretty good average for 1972 (and some more recent scholars barely manage even that).  What’s more, among the writers included are, interestingly, several that I have raved about on this blog, who in 2013 are shrouded in obscurity but in 1972 were apparently still relatively known and recognized—most notably, Edith Olivier and Norah Hoult.

Reassuringly for me, if I’m not mistaken, all of the women included in this section are either already on my Overwhelming List or are excluded only because I’ve kept my list limited to writers from the British Isles (though I have occasional pangs when I think of excluding the likes of Katherine Mansfield and Christina Stead).  Though at least one, Nancy Brysson Morrison, only squeaked in with my last update!

It’s still quite easy to point out writers I think should have been included. While many of the writers on my Overwhelming List were probably pretty obscure right from the start, others had certainly had significant success and acclaim prior to 1950.  Ann Bridge, Anna Buchan, Monica Dickens, Rachel Ferguson, Molly Keane, Marghanita Laski, F. M. Mayor, D. E. Stevenson, and Elizabeth Taylor came to mind fairly quickly.  But I actually only found a handful whose absence from the list truly shocked me—no Vera Brittain or Winifred Holtby?  No Cicely Hamilton?  What about Georgette Heyer?

(One oddity I noticed: If the time frame is 1900-1950, why would the editors have included Barbara Pym, whose first novel appeared in 1950 [and who, in 1972, had been “unpublishable” for over a decade and whose triumphant return was still several years away], but excluded Elizabeth Taylor, whose debut novel appeared in 1945 and had been steadily publishing ever since?  Ah, the mysteries of the academic selection process!)

Also interesting to me was the number of male writers included whom I’d never heard of.  Admittedly, I don’t read a lot of male writers these days, but I spent a fair number of years early in my literary studies reading almost entirely canonical (i.e. mostly male) writers, so I was surprised to be unfamiliar with fully 50% of the male writers mentioned.  I bet most of you will find names you’ve never heard before too.  When was the last time you picked up a tome by Roy Broadbent Fuller or William Pett Ridge?  And how much space is reserved on your bookcases for the complete works of Ralph Hale Mottram or Gerald Bullett?  The ebb and flow of the canonical tide is always fascinating and often surprising.

As would be expected, a lot more women appeared in the book’s separate section for children’s fiction, and quite a few more of the writers on my list appear there—though the adult novels many of them also wrote are largely ignored.  But this section contains a LOT of names I’ve never come across before, and some of those probably belong on my list.  Always more research to be done!

At any rate, for anyone else who might enjoy lists as much as I do, below are the lists:

  1. of women novelists;
  2. of male novelists;
  3. of additional women listed under children’s fiction; and
  4. of women listed in the book’s smaller drama section. 

(The asterisks in the lists of novelists indicate writers who are given the prestige of their very own separate section at the beginning of the list—one woman [three guineas—um, I mean three guesseswhich one...] and seven men achieved this honor.)


*Virginia Woolf
Enid Bagnold
Theodora Benson
Stella Benson
Phyllis Bentley
Phyllis Bottome
Elizabeth Bowen
Marjorie Bowen
Mary Butts
Catherine Carswell
Agatha Christie
Ivy Compton-Burnett
Clemence Dane
E. M. Delafield
Maud Diver
Daphne du Maurier
Margiad Evans
Ellen Fowler
Elinor Glyn
Rumer Godden
Radclyffe Hall
Constance Holme
Norah Hoult
Violet Hunt
Margaret Irwin
Storm Jameson
F. Tennyson Jesse
Pamela Hansford Johnson
Sheila Kaye-Smith
Margaret Kennedy
Rosamond Lehmann
Ada Leverson
Marie Belloc Lowndes
Rose Macaulay
Olivia Manning
Katherine Mansfield
Ethel Colburn Mayne
Viola Meynell
Naomi Mitchison
Nancy Mitford
Nancy Agnes Brysson Morrison
Willa Muir
Kate O’Brien
Edith Olivier
Barbara Pym
Jean Rhys
Dorothy Richardson
Naomi Royde-Smith
Vita Sackville-West
Dorothy Sayers
Beatrice Seymour
Ethel Sidgwick
May Sinclair
Somerville & Ross
Christina Stead
G. B. Stern
Angela Thirkell
Sylvia Townsend Warner
Mary Webb
Rebecca West
Romer Wilson
E. H. Young


*Joseph Conrad
*H. G. Wells
*Arnold Bennett
*E. M. Forster
*James Joyce
*D. H. Lawrence
*Graham Greene
J. R. Ackerley
Richard Aldington
Walter Ernest Allen
Michael Arlen
Henry Christopher Bailey
Nigel Balchin
Maurice Baring
Joseph Alexander Baron
H. E. Bates
Ralph Bates
Thomas Owen Beachcroft
Samuel Beckett
Max Beerbohm
Adrian Bell
Neil Bell (Stephen Southwald)
Hilaire Belloc
E. C. Bentley
John Davys Beresford
Anthony Berkeley (aka Frances Iles)
George Birmingham
Algernon Blackwood
George Blake
David Bone
Ernest Bramah
John Brophy
John Buchan
Gerald Bullett
Thomas Burke
Arthur Calder-Marshall
Gilbert Cannan
Joyce Cary
G. K. Chesterton
Erskine Childers
Richard Thomas Church
John Collier
Alexander Comfort
A. E. Coppard
Rhys Davies
George Warwick Deeping
Walter de la Mare
William Frend de Morgan
Nigel Dennis
Hugh de Selincourt
Norman Douglas
Lawrence Durrell
Caradoc Evans
Ronald Firbank
Ford Madox Ford
C. S. Forester
Gilbert Frankau
Ronald Fraser
Roy Broadbent Fuller
John Galsworthy
David Garnett
W. L. George
William Gerhardie
Lewis Grassic Gibbon
Philip Hamilton Gibbs
Louis Golding
R. B. Cunninghame Graham
Kenneth Grahame
Robert Graves
Frederick Lawrence Green
Henry Green
Neil Gunn
Patrick Hamilton
John Hampson
James Hanley
L. P. Hartley
Ian Hay
Alan Patrick Herbert
Maurice Hewlett
Robert Hichens
James Hilton
Geoffrey Edward West Household
Stephen Hudson
Richard Hughes
A. S. M. Hutchinson
Ray Coryton Hutchinson
Aldous Huxley
Michael Innes
Christopher Isherwood
William Wymark Jacobs
M. R. James
David Michael Jones
Hugh Kingsmill
C. H. B. Kitchen
Arthur Koestler
Alun Lewis
Cecil Day-Lewis
Clive Lewis
Wyndham Lewis
David Lindsay
Jack Lindsay
Eric Linklater
Richard Llewellyn
William John Locke
Malcolm Lowry
Percy Lubbock
Archibald Gordon MacDonell (aka Neil Gordon)
William Morley Punshon McFee
Arthur Llewelyn Jones Machen
Denis Mackail
Stephen McKenna
Compton Mackenzie
Frederic Manning
Louis Marlow
John Masefield
A. E. W. Mason
W. Somerset Maugham
William Babington Maxwell
Richard Barham Middleton
A. A. Milne
Nicholas Monsarrat
C. E. Montague
Charles Morgan
Ralph Hale Mottram
Edwin Muir
L. H. Myers
Percy Howard Newby
Beverley Nichols
William Edward Norris
Flann O’Brien
Frank O’Connor
Sean O’Faolain
Liam O’Flaherty
Richard Oke
Seumas O’Kelly
Oliver Onions
George Orwell
John Oxenham
Barry Pain
Mervyn Peake
Eden Phillpotts
William Plomer
Anthony Powell
John Cowper Powys
Llewelyn Powys
T. F. Powys
J. B. Priestley
Victor Pritchett
Edwin Pugh
Arthur Ransome
Herbert Read
Forrest Reid
Stephen Reynolds
William Pett Ridge
Cecil Edric Mornington Roberts
Frederick Rolfe (aka Baron Corvo)
Edward Sackville-West
Michael Sadleir
Saki (aka H. H. Munro)
William Sansom
Sapper (aka Herman McNeile)
John Dick Scott
R. C. Sherriff
Nevil Shute
Osbert Sitwell
Sacheverell Sitwell
C. P. Snow
Robert Howard Spring
William Olaf Stapledon
James Stephens
Leonard Alfred George Strong
Frank Swinnerton
Julian Symons
Dylan Thomas
A. G. Thornton
J. R. R. Tolkien
H. M. Tomlinson
Philip Toynbee
Henry Treece
Robert Tressell
Walter James Redfurn Turner
Edward Upward
Horace Annesley Vachell
Edgar Wallace
Hugh Walpole
Rex Warner
Alex Waugh
Evelyn Waugh
Denton Welch
Anthony Panther West
T. H. White
Charles Williams
Henry Williamson
Angus Wilson
P. G. Wodehouse
Dornford Yates
Francis Brett Young

CHILDREN’S FICTION (women only--and in no fathomable order I could detect)

Grace Rhys
Beatrix Potter
Angela Brazil
Rose Fyleman
Victoria Eleanor Louise Doorly
Margery Williams (aka Margery Bianco)
E. H. Young
Marion St. John Webb
Daisy Ashford
Eleanor Farjeon
Virginia Woolf (mentioned because of a piece called “Nurse Lugton’s Golden Thimble” ???)
Kitty Barne
Constance Heward
Alison Uttley
Margaret Batchelor
Grace James
Elsie Oxenham
Christine Chaundler
Marjorie Bowen
Enid Bagnold
Helen Waddell
Margaret Baker
Richmal Crompton
Dorita Fairlie Bruce
Dorothy Hann
Gwynedd Rae
Vera Charlesworth Barclay
Cicely Englefield
Cynthia Mary Harnett
Amabel Williams-Ellis
Cicely Mary Barker
Elinor Brent-Dyer
Arnrid Johnston
Ruth Manning-Sanders
Alice Hall
Elsie Smeaton Munro
Rhoda Dolore le Poer Power
Barbara Euphan Todd
Esther Boumphrey
Joyce Lankester Brisley
Eleanor Graham
Hilda Lewis
Naomi Mitchison
Carola Oman
Noel Streatfeild
Joanna Cannan
Kathleen Hale
Patricia Nora Lynch
Enid Blyton
Mary Evelyn Atkinson
Elizabeth Goudge
Claire Veronica Hope Leighton
Josephine Elder
Golden Gorse (aka Mrs. M. A. Wace)
Virginia Pye
Stella Gibbons
Enid Marx
Margot Mary Pardoe
Elfrida Vipont
Bettina (aka Bettina Ehrlich)
Mary Norton
Mary Adshead (later Bone)
Magdalen King-Hall
Alice Margaret Coats
Mary Kathleen Harris
Mary Emett
Dorothy Ann Lovell
Katharine Tozer
Mary Irene Cathcart Borer
P. L. Travers
Rumer Godden
Joan Marshall Grant
Ruth Gallard Ainsworth
Joan Kiddell-Monroe
Monica Redlich
Diana Ross (aka Diana Denney)
Mary Treadgold
Margaret Melville Balfour
Helen and Margaret Binyan
Cicely Fox-Smith
Eve Garnett
Theodosia Frances Wynne Hickey
Elizabeth Kyle (aka Agnes Mary Robertson Dunlop)
Lorna Lewis
Ann Scot Moncrieff
Violet Needham
Mimpsy Rhys
Catherine Scales
Violet Hilda Drummond
Noel Langley
Ursula Moray Williams
Monica Edwards
Mabel Esther Allan
Clare Collas
Kathleen Fidler
Olive Dehn
Antonia Forest
Joan Selby Lowndes
Antonia Florence Ridge
Margaret Joyce Baker
Yvonne Moyra Graham Charlton
Cam (aka Barbara Mary Campbell)
Audrey Clark
Dorothy Craigie
Hilary Stebbing
Katharine Hull
Pamela Brown
Christine Pullein-Thompson

DRAMA (women only)

Enid Bagnold
Elizabeth Baker
Bridget Boland
Agatha Christie
Clemence Dane
Gordon Daviot (aka Josephine Tey)
Teresa Deevy
Gertrude Eleanor Jennings
Margaret Kennedy
Esther McCracken
Anne Barbara Ridler
Dorothy Sayers
Dodie Smith
Githa Katherine Sowerby
Lesley Storm
Joan Temple (who apparently also wrote novels?)


  1. Didn't Stella Gibbons write only one children's book?! and upwards of thirty novels? I would have expected something a little more definitive from Cambridge, I guess.

    Still -- I can see that even this list will keep you busy for quite some time!

  2. You're right, Jeanne, Stella Gibbons is another major oversight for the novel list. You would have thought, with the success of Cold Comfort Farm and the fact that she had published several more novels by 1950, she would have had to be included. What were they thinking? Last year when we went to London, I picked up several of Gibbons' later novels in the Vintage Classics editions, and I've loved all of them so far. She has gradually become one of my favorite writers.

  3. It's odd that Cicely Fox Smith/Cicely Fox-Smith (1882-1954) is only included as an author of children's books. Here is a list of her publications from The Complete Poetry of Cicely Fox Smith, edited by myself and James Saville:

    Cicely Fox Smith's poetry books include:

    Songs of Greater Britain, Sherratt & Hughes, Manchester, UK, © 1899
    The Foremost Trail, Sampson Low, Marston & Co., London, UK, © 1899
    Men of Men, Sampson Low, Marston & Co., London, UK, © 1900
    Wings of the Morning, Elkin Mathews, London, UK, © 1904
    Lancashire Hunting Songs & Other Moorland Lays, J. E. Cornish, Manchester, UK, © 1909
    Songs in Sail, Elkin Mathews, London, UK, © 1914
    Sailor Town: Sea Songs and Ballads, Elkin Mathews, London, UK, © 1914 & George H. Doran Co., New York, US, © 1919
    The Naval Crown, Elkin Mathews, London, UK, © 1915
    Fighting Men, Elkin Mathews, London, UK, © 1916
    Small Craft, Elkin Mathews, London, UK, © 1917 & George H. Doran Co., New York, US, © 1919
    Rhymes of the Red Ensign, Hodder & Stoughton, London, UK, © 1919
    Songs and Chanties: 1914-1916, Elkin Mathews, London, UK, © 1919
    Ships and Folks, Elkin Mathews, London, UK, © 1920
    Rovings, Elkin Mathews, London, UK, © 1921
    Sea Songs and Ballads 1917-22, Houghton Mifflin, London, UK, © 1923 & Houghton Mifflin, New York, US, ©1924
    Full Sail: More Sea Songs and Ballads, Houghton Mifflin, London, UK, © 1926
    Sailor's Delight, Methuen & Co., London, UK, © 1931
    All the Other Children, Methuen & Co., London, UK, © 1933
    Here and There in England with the Painter Brangwyn, F. Lewis, Publishers, Ltd., Leigh-on-Sea, UK, © 1945
    Country Days and Country Ways Trudging Afoot in England, F. Lewis, Publishers, Ltd., Leigh-on-Sea, UK, © 1947
    Ship Models, Country Life, London, UK, © 1951

    1. Hi, Charles. Thanks for the information! After seeing your comment, I actually looked at the poetry section of the Cambridge Bibliography, which I hadn't listed in this post, and indeed CFS isn't even listed there. Odd indeed, but perhaps not all that surprising, considering how many great women writers in other genres were excluded as well.


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