Margaret Kennedy
Margaret Kennedy was an English novelist and playwright.

Family and education

Margaret Kennedy was born in Hyde Park Gate
Hyde Park Gate
Hyde Park Gate is an address in central London, England, which applies to two parallel roads in Kensington on the southern boundary of Kensington Gardens. It is probably most famous for being the death place of Sir Winston Churchill...

, London, the eldest of the four children of Charles Moore Kennedy (1857-1934), a barrister, and his wife Ellinor Edith Marwood (1861–1928). The novelist Joyce Cary
Joyce Cary
Joyce Cary was an Anglo-Irish novelist and artist.-Youth and education:...

 was a cousin on her father's side.

She attended Cheltenham Ladies' College
Cheltenham Ladies' College
The Cheltenham Ladies' College is an independent boarding and day school for girls aged 11 to 18 in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England.-History:The school was founded in 1853...

, where she began writing, and then went up to Somerville College, Oxford
Somerville College, Oxford
Somerville College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England, and was one of the first women's colleges to be founded there...

 in 1915 to read history. Her first publication was a history book, A Century of Revolution (1922). Margaret Kennedy was married on 20 June 1925 to the barrister David Davies (1889–1964), who later became a county court judge and a national insurance commissioner. He was knighted in 1952. They had a son and two daughters, one of whom was the novelist Julia Birley. The novelist Serena Mackesy
Serena Mackesy
-Life and education:Serena Mackesy is the daughter of the Scots-born Oxford military historian Piers Mackesy. She is also the granddaughter on her mother's side of the novelist Margaret Kennedy and on her father's side of Leonora Mackesy , who wrote Harlequin romances as Leonora Starr and Dorothy...

 is her grand-daughter. Margaret Kennedy died at a friend's house at Adderbury
Adderbury is a large village and civil parish in northern Oxfordshire, England. It is about south of Banbury and from Junction 10 of the M40 motorway. The village is divided in two by the Sor Brook. The village consists of two neighbourhoods: West Adderbury and East Adderbury...

, Oxfordshire
Oxfordshire is a county in the South East region of England, bordering on Warwickshire and Northamptonshire , Buckinghamshire , Berkshire , Wiltshire and Gloucestershire ....

 on 31 July 1967.

Novels and plays

Margaret Kennedy is best appreciated today for her second novel, The Constant Nymph, which she adapted into a highly successful West End play
West End theatre
West End theatre is a popular term for mainstream professional theatre staged in the large theatres of London's 'Theatreland', the West End. Along with New York's Broadway theatre, West End theatre is usually considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English speaking...

 that opened at the New Theatre
Noël Coward Theatre
The Noël Coward Theatre, formerly known as the Albery Theatre, is a West End theatre on St. Martin's Lane in the City of Westminster. It opened on 12 March 1903 as the New Theatre and was built by Sir Charles Wyndham behind Wyndham's Theatre which was completed in 1899. The building was designed by...

, with Noel Coward
Noël Coward
Sir Noël Peirce Coward was an English playwright, composer, director, actor and singer, known for his wit, flamboyance, and what Time magazine called "a sense of personal style, a combination of cheek and chic, pose and poise".Born in Teddington, a suburb of London, Coward attended a dance academy...

 and Edna Best in September 1926. Coward was replaced by John Gielgud
John Gielgud
Sir Arthur John Gielgud, OM, CH was an English actor, director, and producer. A descendant of the renowned Terry acting family, he achieved early international acclaim for his youthful, emotionally expressive Hamlet which broke box office records on Broadway in 1937...

 during the run. It was also successfully filmed in 1928
The Constant Nymph (1928 film)
The Constant Nymph is a 1928 British silent film drama, directed by Adrian Brunel and starring Ivor Novello and Mabel Poulton. This was the first film adaptation of the 1924 best-selling and controversial novel of the same name by Margaret Kennedy...

 by Adrian Brunel
Adrian Brunel
Adrian Brunel was an English film director and screenwriter. Brunel's directorial career started in the silent era, and reached its peak in the latter half of the 1920s...

 and Alma Reville
Alma Reville
Alma Reville, Lady Hitchcock was an English assistant director, screenwriter and editor. She was the second daughter of Edward and Lucy Reville....

, directed by Brunel and Basil Dean
Basil Dean
Basil Herbert Dean CBE was an English actor, writer, film producer/director and theatrical producer/director....

, and starring Ivor Novello
Ivor Novello
David Ivor Davies , better known as Ivor Novello, was a Welsh composer, singer and actor who became one of the most popular British entertainers of the first half of the 20th century. Born into a musical family, his first successes were as a songwriter...

, Mabel Poulton
Mabel Poulton
Mabel Poulton was an English film actress, popular in Britain during the era of silent films.Born in London, England, Poulton was working as a stenographer and entered films by chance. Her first role in George Pearson's Nothing Else Matters was opposite Betty Balfour, who was also making her...

 and Benita Hume
Benita Hume
Benita Hume was an English film actress. She appeared in 44 films between 1925 and 1955.She was married to actor Ronald Colman from 1938 to his death in 1958; they were the parents of a daughter, Juliet...

, and again in 1933
The Constant Nymph (1933 film)
The Constant Nymph is a 1933 British drama film directed by Basil Dean and Victoria Hopper, Brian Aherne and Leonora Corbett. It is an adaptation of the novel The Constant Nymph by Margaret Kennedy...

, 1938 (for television), and 1943
The Constant Nymph (1943 film)
The Constant Nymph is a 1943 romantic drama film starring Charles Boyer, Joan Fontaine, Alexis Smith, Brenda Marshall, Charles Coburn, Dame May Whitty and Peter Lorre...


Kennedy's first novel had been The Ladies of Lyndon (1923). Among her later successes were The Fool of the Family (1930), a sequel to The Constant Nymph, and the psychological novel A Long Time Ago (1932). The Midas Touch (1938) was a Daily Mail book of the month, The Feast (1950) a Literary Guild
Book of the Month Club
The Book of the Month Club is a United States mail-order book sales club that offers a new book each month to customers.The Book of the Month Club is part of a larger company that runs many book clubs in the United States and Canada. It was formerly the flagship club of Book-of-the-Month Club, Inc...

 choice in the United States, and Troy Chimneys (1953) the winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize
James Tait Black Memorial Prize
Founded in 1919, the James Tait Black Memorial Prizes are among the oldest and most prestigious book prizes awarded for literature written in the English language and are Britain's oldest literary awards...

. The darkly humorous The Heroes of Clone (1957) drew on Kennedy's experience as a screenplay writer. She also published a biography of Jane Austen
Jane Austen
Jane Austen was an English novelist whose works of romantic fiction, set among the landed gentry, earned her a place as one of the most widely read writers in English literature, her realism and biting social commentary cementing her historical importance among scholars and critics.Austen lived...

 and a study of the art of fiction, Outlaws on Parnassus.

Kennedy followed up the stage success of The Constant Nymph (adapted in conjunction with Basil Dean) with three more co-written plays, of which the most successful was Escape Me Never (1934), an adaptation of The Fool of the Family, which was also filmed twice.

Of her postwar novels, The Feast (1950) introduces the disaster first and the characters who may or may not have perished in it afterwards, as in Thornton Wilder
Thornton Wilder
Thornton Niven Wilder was an American playwright and novelist. He received three Pulitzer Prizes, one for his novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey and two for his plays Our Town and The Skin of Our Teeth, and a National Book Award for his novel The Eighth Day.-Early years:Wilder was born in Madison,...

's The Bridge of San Luis Rey
The Bridge of San Luis Rey
The Bridge of San Luis Rey is American author Thornton Wilder's second novel, first published in 1927 to worldwide acclaim. It tells the story of several interrelated people who die in the collapse of an Inca rope-fiber suspension bridge in Peru, and the events that lead up to their being on the...

. The seaside hotel annihilated by the collapse of the cliff is replete with dysfunctional characters of all ages and sizes, which provides a fine balance of suspense, sympathy and even humour. Still, it works on other levels too. Her novelist granddaughter Serena Mackesy
Serena Mackesy
-Life and education:Serena Mackesy is the daughter of the Scots-born Oxford military historian Piers Mackesy. She is also the granddaughter on her mother's side of the novelist Margaret Kennedy and on her father's side of Leonora Mackesy , who wrote Harlequin romances as Leonora Starr and Dorothy...

 has called it "one of the cleverest bits of metaphor-working ever." It was recently reprinted, as were Lucy Carmichael (1951) and The Midas Touch.

Partial bibliography

  • A Century of Revolution 1789-1920 ([London]: Methuen, 1922), history.
  • The Ladies of Lyndon (London: Heinemann, 1923), novel.
  • The Constant Nymph (London: Heinemann, 1924; Leipzig), novel.
  • With Basil Dean: The Constant Nymph - from the novel (London: Heinemann, 1926), play.
  • A Long Week-End (London: Heinemann, 1927), limited e. of short magazine story.
  • Red Sky at Morning (London: Heinemann, 1927), novel.
  • With Basil Dean: Come with Me (London: Heinemann, 1928), play.
  • Dewdrops (London: Heinemann, 1928), limited e. of short girls' school story.
  • The Game and the Candle (London: Heinemann, 1928), limited e. of short magazine story.
  • The Fool of the Family (London: Heinemann, 1930), novel, sequel to The Constant Nymph.
  • Return I Dare Not (London: Heinemann, 1931), novel
  • A Long Time Ago (London: Heinemann, 1932), novel.
  • Escape Me Never! A play in three acts (London: Heinemann, 1934), dramatization of The Fool of the Family.
  • Together and Apart (London: Cassell, 1936), novel.
  • With Gregory Ratoff: Autumn (1937), play.
  • The Midas Touch (London: Cassell, 1938), novel.
  • Happy with Either (1948), play.
  • The Mechanized Muse. P. E. N. series (London: G. Allen & Unwin, 1942), on the cinema.
  • The Feast (London: Cassell, 1950), novel.
  • Lucy Carmichael (London: Macmillan, 1951), novel.
  • Jane Austen. Novelists Series No. 1 (London: Barker, 1950), biography/criticism.
  • Troy Chimneys (London: Macmillan, 1953), novel.
  • The Oracles (London: Macmillan, 1955), novel.
  • The Heroes of Clone (London: Macmillan, 1957), novel.
  • The Outlaws on Parnassus. On the art of the novel (London: Cresset Press, 1958), criticism.
  • A Night in Cold Harbour (London: Macmillan, 1960), novel.
  • Not in the Calendar. The Story of a Friendship (London: Macmillan, 1964), memoir.
  • The Forgotten Smile (London: Macmillan, 1961), novel.
  • Women at Work (London: Macmillan, 1966), two novellas.

External links

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