Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Update: Ever More Obscure

Finishing up the Edwardians a couple of weeks ago was quite a relief, and I was so rejuvenated that I dived right into researching some of the more recent writers I had come across while bogged down with New Women, anti-vivisectionists, and exotic melodramas. 

These mostly come out of contemporary publications, especially the U.K. incarnation of The Bookman, which has proven to be a treasure trove of long-forgotten but often quite interesting writers.  There are also a few here that I should undoubtedly have come across before now.  (Who knew that Daphne du Maurier had a novelist sister?  Not I.) 

There will be more to come, but for now, here are thirteen more "scribbling women," of whom I found a few particularly interesting:

MARY ARDEN, whose real name was Violet Murry, was the second wife of "Mr. Katherine Mansfield," John Middleton Murry.  It was often noted how much she resembled Mansfield, and her one published collection of stories was warmly praised (Naomi Royde-Smith said she "does, and does brilliantly, the same thing for suburban London as Miss Suckow and Miss Ferber do for extra-metropolitan America").  Sadly, however, Arden, also like Mansfield, died from tuberculosis at a tragically young age.

Violet Murry (aka Mary Arden), the spitting
image of Katherine Mansfield?

VALENTINE DOBREE, apparently a close friend of Bloomsburyist Dora Carrington, published two novels, Your Cuckoo Sings by Kind (1927) and The Emperor's Tigers (1929), which were praised by the likes of T. S. Eliot and Graham Greene.  Her only other publications were a story collection, To Blush Unseen (1935), and a collection of poems, This Green Tide (1965).  She has also received some critical attention for her painting.

Photos of Dobree herself are not to be had,
but here's the cover of her acclaimed first novel

ANGELA DU MAURIER, sister of Daphne, must have known something about feeling overshadowed by a sibling!  (Perhaps she and Jon Godden got together regularly to commiserate with one another?)  Her autobiography, It's Only the Sister (1951), might well have interesting things to say about that feeling.  And as these things tend to happen, only a few days after I first realized Angela du Maurier's existence, Fleur Fisher wrote about one of her novels, 1942's Treveryan.  I also learned, belatedly, that earlier this year Jane Dunn published a biography of all three of the du Maurier sisters (apparently not available in the U.S.?).

Angela du Maurier, "only the sister"

MAY SMITH, whose World War II diaries about being a village schoolteacher in wartime, published by Virago, sound irresistible.

May Smith, whose wartime diaries are newly published


MALACHI WHITAKER, whose four short story collections received extravagant acclaim in the 1920s and 1930s, including comparisons to Katherine Mansfield, but who then stopped writing for the remaining four decades of her life.  One of Whitaker's stories is included in The Persephone Book of Short Stories, and a volume of selected stories, The Crystal Fountain, appeared in 1984 and is readily available.

All have been added to the main list.

MARY ARDEN (1901–1931)
(pseudonym of Violet Murry, née le Maistre)

Second wife of John Middleton Murry (the first being Katherine Mansfield), Murry published only one story collection, Luck and Other Stories (1927), reviewed warmly by Naomi Royde-Smith, before she—like Mansfield—succumbed to tuberculosis.

LORNA ARMISTEAD (dates unknown)

Apparently the author of only one novel, Death of Henrietta (1934), a dark tale of war and family life, scathingly reviewed in The Bookman, which bemoaned the fact that authors were still producing the type of book satirized by Stella Gibbons in Cold Comfort Farm.

(pseudonym of Gladys May Mabel Dobree, née Brooke-Pechell)

A fringe member of the Bloomsbury group via her friendship with Dora Carrington, Dobree's two novels—Your Cuckoo Sings by Kind (1927) and The Emperor's Tigers (1929)—were praised by the likes of T. S. Eliot and Graham Greene; she also wrote a story collection, To Blush Unseen (1935).

NORA O'BEIRNE DOWLING (dates unknown)

More research needed; forgotten author of at least two novels, The Grinding of the Mills (1926) and Noon-Day Devil (1933), about which I could find little information.


Sister of the much better-known Daphne, Angela also wrote novels including The Spinning Wheel (1940), The Little Less (1941), and Reveille (1950), as well as two memoirs, It's Only the Sister (1951) and Old Maids Remember (1965).

SHEILA FITZGERALD (dates unknown)

More research needed; author of three novels of the 1930s—the well-reviewed Hungarian Rhapsody (1934), set in the countryside of Hungary, Wild Fruits (1935), and Snowed Under (1936).

DOROTHY K[ATE]. HAYNES (1918-1987)

Children's author and novelist; published three novels—Winter's Traces (1947), The Gibsons of Glasgow (1947), and Haste Ye Back (1973); later work consisted primarily of ghost stories, some of which were collected in Peacocks and Pagodas (1981).

JANE LANE (1905-1978)
(pseudonym of Elaine Kidner Dakers)

Prolific historical novelist and children's author from the 1930s to 1970s, whose works include Undaunted (1934), He Stooped to Conquer (1943), London Goes to Heaven (1947), Parcel of Rogues (1948), about Mary Queen of Scots, and Thunder on St. Paul's Day (1954).


More research needed; author of four early novels, including The Happy Tree (1926), about World War I, as well as Moonseed (1911), Unstable Ways (1914), and Hard Liberty (1929); in later years, she published books about religion and faith, including The Good Pagan's Failure (1939).

MAY SMITH (1914-2004)

Schoolteacher and diarist, whose witty war diaries, telling of life as a teacher in a village near Derby, were published by Virago as These Wonderful Rumours!: A Young Schoolteacher's Wartime Diaries 1939-1945 (2012).

MORNA STUART (dates unknown)

More research needed; now apparently best known for her children's novel Marassa and Midnight (1966), about slavery in the West Indies, Stuart also wrote two novels, Nightrider (1933), set in the London theatre world, and Till She Stoop (1935).

PEGGY TEMPLE (dates unknown)

A child author following in the footsteps of Daisy Ashford, Temple published a humorous novel, The Admiral and Others (1926), at age twelve, which Bookman called "one of those fresh, unaffectedly humorous books that certainly add to the gaiety of the world."

(pseudonym of Marjorie Olive Whitaker, née Taylor)

Wildly acclaimed yet enigmatic author of short stories; her collections, Frost in April (1929), No Luggage? (1930), Five for Silver (1932), and Honeymoon (1934), earned comparisons to Katherine Mansfield, but after a memoir, And So Did I (1939), Whitaker stopped publishing.

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