Enid Bagnold

Enid Bagnold

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Enid Bagnold, the daughter of Colonel Arthur Henry Bagnold, the Commander of the Royal Engineers, was born in Rochester, Kent on 27th October, 1889. Her early childhood was spent in Jamaica but was educated at Prior's Field School in Godalming.

According to Nigel Nicolson she was "a tomboyish, dramatic, outdoor, beautiful girl who soon escaped the conventionally respectable life of her parents by taking a flat in Chelsea". While living in London she studied art under Walter Sickert.

In August 1913, Frank Harris began a magazine entitled, Modern Society. He employed Enid as a staff writer. She later recalled: "He was an extraordinary man. He had an appetite for great things and could transmit the sense of them. He was more like a great actor than a man of heart. He could simulate anything. While he felt admiration he could act it, and while he acted it, he felt it. And greatness being his big part, he hunted the centuries for it, spotting it in literature, in passion, in action."

In her Autobiography (1917) she admitted that Harris took her virginity. "The great and terrible step was taken... I went through the gateway in an upper room in the Cafe Royal. That afternoon at the end of the session I walked back to Uncle Lexy's at Warrington Crescent, reflecting on my rise. Like a corporal made sergeant.... And what about love - what about the heart? It wasn't involved. I went through this adventure like a boy, in a merry sort of way, without troubling much. I didn't know him. If I had really known him I might have been tender." During dinner with Uncle Lexy she later wrote that she couldn't believe that her skull wasn't chanting aloud: "I'm not a virgin! I'm not a virgin".

Harris introduced her to people like Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Katherine Mansfield, John Middleton Murry and Claud Lovat Fraser. Gaudier-Brzeska asked her to pose for him. She later recalled: "He didn't want to know what people were like. He rushed at them, held them, poured his thoughts over them, and when in response, they said ten words his impatience overflowed; he jabbed and wounded and the blood flowed."

Bagnold has left an interesting account of what it was like to be sculptured by Gaudier-Brzeska: "I went to his room in Chelsea - a large, bare room at the top of a house - it was winter, and the daylight would not last long. While I sat still, idle and uncomfortable on a wooden chair, Gaudier's thin body faced me, standing in his overall behind the lump of clay, at which he worked with feverish haste. We talked a little, and then fell silent; from time to time, but not very often, his black eyes shot over my face and neck, while his hands flew round the clay. After a time his nose began to bleed, but he made no attempt to stop it; he appeared insensible to it, and the blood fell on to his overall."

On the outbreak of the First World War Bagnold joined the Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs) and worked as a nurse at the Royal Herbert Hospital, Woolwich. Her account of this experience, Diary Without Dates (1917) was so critical of hospital administration that the military authorities arranged for her dismissal. H. G. Wells described it as one of the most human books written about the war. Determined to help the war effort, Bagnold went to France and worked as a volunteer driver. Later she wrote about this in The Happy Foreigner (1920).

In 1920 Bagnold married Roderick Jones, the head of Reuters News Agency. They moved to North End House, Rottingdean. The writer, Anne Sebba, has argued "Their partnership was marked by loyalty, not fidelity, respect but not passion". The couple had four children. three sons and a daughter. Her friend Vita Sackville-West wrote of her in an unpublished poem: "And then came Jones, and flesh succumbed to Jones and domesticity destroyed you in the end."

Bagnold continued to write and in 1924 published the highly acclaimed novel, The Difficulty of Getting Married. Her biographer, Nigel Nicolson has argued: "Enid Bagnold thus achieved fame while still in her twenties, and her ambition never slackened. Her vitality, humour, audacity, and grace made her an exhilarating companion. She was ebulliently communicative, in talk as in writing, as lavish with words as a pianist is with notes, loving the inexhaustible variety of human experience as much as the language which expressed it."

This was followed by the commercially successful, National Velvet (1935), the story of a butcher's daughter who wins a horse in a raffle and, disguised as a boy, she rides to victory in the Grand National. It was later made into a hugely successful film, with Elizabeth Taylor in the starring role. Her next novel, which she considered to be her best, was The Squire (1938).

Bagnold also wrote several popular plays including Lottie Dundass (1943), The Chalk Garden (1951), The Chinese Prime Minister (1964) and a Matter of Gravity (1975).

Enid Bagnold died of bronchopneumonia on 31st March 1981 at 17a Hamilton Terrace, London. Her ashes were buried at Rottingdean, Sussex, after her cremation at Golders Green.

Claud Lovat Fraser was the first to be excited by Gaudier's extraordinary talent. But soon he drew away from him. Lovat, most indulgent of men, would never express dislike, but he would not waste time on Gaudier's burning, voluble, cascading talk, though he deeply respected his art.

I didn't like him either; and Gaudier on his side found us both middleclass. We had no idea then of his crippling poverty. He had no time for talk because he was out of work. Too proud to say so he talked instead of eating. He didn't want to know what people were like. He rushed at them, held them, poured his thoughts over them, and when in response, they said ten words his impatience overflowed; he jabbed and wounded and the blood flowed.

I went to his room in Chelsea - a large, bare room at the top of a house - it was winter, and the daylight would not last long. After a time his nose began to bleed, but he made no attempt to stop it; he appeared insensible to it, and the blood fell on to his overall. At last, unable to stand it any longer, I said: "Your nose is bleeding". He replied: "I know, you'll find something to stop it in that bag on the wall"; and all the time he went on working, while the light got less and less. The bag was full of clothes belonging to Gaudier and Miss Brzeska, most of them dirty, most of them torn. I chose something, long-legged drawers, I think, and tied them round his nose and mouth and behind his neck. "Lower!" he said impatiently, wrenching at it, unable to see properly. I went to my seat, but after a time the cloth became soaked through with blood. The light had gone, and in the street outside there was a terrific noise. It was a dog-fight, one large dog pinning another by the throat, and Gaudier left his work to come and watch it. He watched it to the finish with dark, interested eyes, his head against the window, and the street-lamp shining on his bloody bandages.

He (Frank Harris) was an extraordinary man. And greatness being his big part, he hunted the centuries for it, spotting it in literature, in passion, in action...

For what happened, of course, was totally to be foreseen. The great and terrible step was taken. What else could you expect from a girl so expectant? "Sex," said Frank Harris, "is the gateway to life." So I went through the gateway in an upper room in the Cafe Royal.

That afternoon at the end of the session I walked back to Uncle Lexy's at Warrington Crescent, reflecting on my rise. Like a corporal made sergeant.

As I sat at dinner with Aunt Clara and Uncle Lexy I couldn't believe that my skull wasn't chanting aloud: "I'm not a virgin! I'm not a virgin".

It was a boy's cry of initiation - not a girl's.

And what about love - what about the heart? It wasn't involved. If I had really known him I might have been tender.

"In love" doesn't make one tender. It makes one furious or jealous, or miserable when it stops. It's the years that make one tender. Time, affection, knowledge. "In love" is the reverse of knowledge.

I went home every week-end. Once home it seemed it hadn't happened. Lies were told. You can't grow up without lies. A child is so much older than her mother thinks she is. I risked so much. It was their happiness I risked: not mine. Nothing could have foundered me - I thought. But if they had known (that's what I risked) could things ever have been the same?

There was plenty to tell at week-ends, without thinking of sex. The office was so thunderingly alive, F.H. in and out, struggling in despair, or blazingly optimistic.

I suffer awfully from my language in this ward. I seem to be the only VAD nurse of whom they continually ask, "What say, nurse?' It isn't that I use long words, but my sentences seem to be inverted.

"An antitetanic injection for Corrigan," said Sister. And I went to the dispensary to fetch the syringe and the needles.

"But has he any symptoms?" I asked. In the Tommies' ward one dare ask anything; their isn't that mystery which used to surround the officers' illnesses.

"Oh, no," she said, "it's just that he hasn't had his full amount in France."

So I hunted up the spirit-lamp and we prepared it, talking of it.

But we forget to talk of it to Corrigan. The needle was into his shoulder before he knew why his shirt was held up.

His wrath came like an avalanche; the discipline of two years was forgotten, his Irish tongue was loosened. Sister shrugged her shoulders and laughed; I listened to him as I cleaned the syringe.

I gathered that it was the indignity that had shocked his sense of individual pride. "Treating me like a cow" I heard him say to Smiff - who laughed, since it wasn't his shoulder that carried the serum.

In the bus yesterday, I came down from London sitting beside a Sister from another ward, who held her hand to her ear and shifted in her seat.

She told me she had earache and we didn't talk, and I sat huddled in my corner and watched the names of the shops, thinking, as I was more or less forced to do by her movements, of her earache.

What struck me was her own angry bewilderment before the fact of her pain. "But it hurts. You've no idea how it hurts!" She was surprised.

Many times a day she hears the words, "Sister, you're hurting me. Couldn't you shift my heel? It's like a toothache," and other similar sentences. I hear them in the ward without some such request falling on one's ears.

She is astonished at her earache; she is astonished at what pain can be; it is unexpected. She is ready to be angry with herself, with her pain, with her ear. It is monstrous she thinks.

The pain of one creature cannot continue to have a meaning for another. It is almost impossible to nurse a man well whose pain you do not imagine.

It was the first time I had a man sing at his dressing. I was standing at the sterilizer when Rees's song began to mount over the screen that hid him from me.

It was like this: "Ah... ee... oo, Sister!" and again: "Sister... oo... ah!" Then a little scream and his song again.

I heard the Sister's voice: "Now then, Rees, I don't call that much of a song. " She called me to make her bed, and I saw his left ear was full of tears.

Oh visitors, who come into the ward in the calm of the long afternoon, when the beds are neat and clean and the flowers out on the tables and the VAD's sit sewing at splints and sandbags, when the men look like men again and smoke and talk and read... if you could see what lies beneath the dressings!

He (Frank Harris) was an extraordinary man. And greatness being his big part, he hunted the centuries for it, spotting it in literature, in passion, in action.

Bagnold wrote the play with an English premiere in mind, but the West End producer, Binkie Beaumont, turned it down: "I confess I find some of the symbolism confusing and muddling". [1] The piece was taken up by the American producer Irene Selznick, who proposed a Broadway premiere. She found the play challenging and tantalising – "I am haunted by its gossamer flashes of poetry and beauty" – but lacking in focus. In July 1954 she travelled to England to work with Bagnold for six weeks, tightening the play up. [2] They discussed the casting for the production the author hoped Edith Evans would play Mrs St Maugham, but Selznick insisted on casting Gladys Cooper. [3] For the enigmatic role of Miss Madrigal, Selznick hoped to cast her friend Katharine Hepburn, but Hepburn did not respond to the play and turned the part down. Selznick and Bagnold agreed to offer the part to Wendy Hiller, who declined it because she did not wish to leave England. Finally, Siobhán McKenna accepted the role. [3]

Selznick engaged George Cukor to direct he took the play through its rehearsals and out-of-town previews, but handed over to Albert Marre before the Broadway premiere. [4] The designer for both sets and costumes was Cecil Beaton, whom Cukor and Selznick found intolerable to work with, but whose designs were highly praised. [5]

The Chalk Garden was first performed at the Shubert Theatre, New Haven, Connecticut on 21 September 1955, [6] and was given on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on 26 October. It ran for 182 performances. [7]

When Beaumont saw the enthusiastic reviews by the New York critics he immediately changed his mind about producing the piece in London. [8] The play had its British premiere at the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham on 21 March 1956 and was first seen in London on 11 April at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. The director was John Gielgud, the sets were by Reece Pemberton and the costumes by Sophie Harris. The play ran at the Haymarket for 658 performances, ending on 9 November 1957. [6]

US cast London cast Replacements during London run
Maitland Fritz Weaver George Rose
Judge Percy Waram Felix Aylmer
Miss Madrigal
(First Applicant)
Siobhán McKenna Peggy Ashcroft Pamela Brown
Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies
Mavis Walker
Second Applicant Georgia Harvey Ruth Lodge
Third Applicant Eva Leonard-Boyne Janet Burnell Margery Weston
Laurel Betsy von Furstenberg Judith Stott Erica Bruce
Mrs St Maugham Gladys Cooper Edith Evans Gladys Cooper
Nurse Marie Paxton Mavis Walker Gwen Hill
Olivia Marian Seldes
later Lori March
Rachel Gurney
Sources: Internet Broadway Database, [7] and The London Stage 1950–1959. [6]

Mrs St Maugham lives in her country house in a village in Sussex, where the garden is on lime and chalk, making it difficult for her to succeed in her determined but incompetent efforts as a gardener. She is taking care of her disturbed teenage grandchild, Laurel, who has been setting fires. Miss Madrigal, an expert gardener, is hired as a governess, despite her lack of references. Also in the household is a valet, Maitland, who has just been released from a five-year sentence in prison. Olivia, Laurel's mother, who has remarried, arrives for a visit. When the Judge comes to the house for lunch, he reveals that he had sentenced Miss Madrigal to jail for murder.

Revivals Edit

The first Australian production, in 1957, featured Sybil Thorndike, Lewis Casson, Patricia Kennedy and Gordon Chater. [9] In Britain, Gladys Cooper again played Mrs St Maugham in a 1970 revival directed by Laurier Lister at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, with Joan Greenwood as Miss Madrigal, Robert Flemyng as Maitland and Donald Eccles as the Judge. [10] Cooper and Greenwood reprised their roles in the play's first West End revival, in 1971 at the Haymarket, directed by William Chappell, with Michael Goodliffe as the Judge and Peter Bayliss as Maitland. [11]

The first revival New York was given by the Roundabout Theatre Company at Roundabout Stage 1 from 30 March 1982 to 20 June 1982. The cast featured Constance Cummings as Mrs St Maugham, Irene Worth as Miss Madrigal and Donal Donnelly as Maitland. The director was John Stix. [12] As at 2020 this was the only further staging of the piece in New York, a planned production in 2017 starring Angela Lansbury having fallen through. [13]

A 1984 British tour of the play starred Eleanor Summerfield as Mrs St Maugham and Nyree Dawn Porter as Miss Madrigal Ernest Clark was the Judge and Bruce Montague played Maitland. [14] A revival at the King's Head Theatre, London in 1992 again featured Cummings as Mrs St Maugham, with Jean Marsh as Miss Madrigal and Robert Flemyng as the Judge. [15] The play was revived in Australia in 1995, starring Googie Withers, Judi Farr and John McCallum. [16]

A 2008 production at the Donmar Warehouse, London was directed by Michael Grandage, with Margaret Tyzack as Mrs St Maugham, Penelope Wilton as Miss Madrigal, Felicity Jones as Laurel, and Jamie Glover as Maitland. [17] In 2018 the Chichester Festival Theatre presented a new production, featuring Penelope Keith (Mrs St Maugham), Amanda Root (Miss Madrigal) and Oliver Ford Davies (Judge). The director was Alan Strachan. [18]

Adaptations Edit

A 1964 film adaptation featured Edith Evans as Mrs St Maugham, Deborah Kerr as Miss Madrigal, Hayley Mills as Laurel, and John Mills as Maitland. It was directed by Ronald Neame. [19]

The BBC broadcast a radio adaptation of the play in 1968, with Edith Evans recreating her role of Mrs St Maugham, Mary Morris as Miss Madrigal, Cecil Parker as the Judge and Angela Pleasence as Laurel. [20] The cast of the 2008 Donmar production recorded a studio performance for BBC Radio 3, first broadcast in March 2011. [21]

First productions Edit

The notices for the Broadway premiere were excellent. Brooks Atkinson wrote in The New York Times:

In The Daily News John Chapman called it "A tantalizing, fascinating and stimulating piece of theatre … the most literate and sophisticated" of recent plays. [23] Walter Kerr of the New York Herald Tribune wrote, "I can't quite remember any other occasion in the theater when I so resisted a first act only to wind up at the end of the third wishing there were a fourth". [24]

When the play opened in London, Philip Hope-Wallace wrote in The Manchester Guardian of experiencing "a unique theatrical pleasure" at Edith Evans's performance, invoked Chekhov's The Seagull and called the piece "a woman's play in the very best sense, being laconic, compassionate and wonderfully gay-hearted". [25] In The Observer, Kenneth Tynan commented that The Chalk Garden "may well be the finest artificial comedy to have flowed from an English (as opposed to an Irish) pen since the death of Congreve." [26]

Revivals Edit

Rex Reed, in his review of the 1971 West End production, wrote: "This endearing play never seems to age, perhaps because its characters are written with such wit and brittle cleverness. It is a fragile, gossamer-winged play. " [27]

Frank Rich reviewed the 1982 Roundabout production for The New York Times, writing: " 'The Chalk Garden' is extraordinarily modern for a high comedy set in the drawing room of a stuffy Sussex manor house: its plot and structure are elliptical its witty lines aren't brittle but are instead redolent with what the author calls 'the shape and shadow of life.'. Bagnold's play is in part a journey to the bottom of Miss Madrigal's identity it is also about the effect the woman has on her employer's household. Mrs St Maugham is a selfish, eccentric paragon of privilege who spends her days gardening but can't make anything grow." [28]

The British Voluntary Aid Detachment (V.A.D.) (1909-1918)

The First World War killed an estimated 37 million people. During this first industrialized “total war,” which blurred the boarders between the home front and the battle front, women became active supporters of the war and witnessed the horrors of war. But in this time of great peril for all involved belligerents, also new opportunities emerged for women, because they were needed more than ever before in all war efforts at the home front and the front to replace the men mobilized for the military.

One specific example was the Voluntary Aid Detachment (V.A.D.), through which British women volunteered to serve the wounded and sick soldiers under the Red Cross and Order of St. John in both field hospitals and other medical facilities within Britain and behind the frontlines in Europe. The V.A.D. was formed in August 1909 with the War Office issuing the Scheme for the Organization of Voluntary Aid for England and Wales in an effort to prevent the shortage of nurses during times of war. As volunteers, these V.A.D. women worked without pay, meaning their backgrounds primarily consisted of middle class or upper class patriotic British women.

Initially trained in providing meals and nursing the wounded, the number of V.A.D. workers swelled with the start of World War I to 40,000 members across 1,800 detachments. They provided a variety of crucial wartime services including nursing assistants, ambulance drivers, chefs and administration roles. Though membership was not limited to women, the vast majority of volunteers were women. By the end of the war in 1918, these women proved themselves invaluable to the war effort. Of the 126,000 that had served 243 were killed, 364 decorated and 1,005 mentioned in letters of dispatches, paving a way for a greater inclusion of women in both military and medical professions for generations to come.

Trained professional military nurses did not always view these volunteers in a positive light as the idea of losing their profession to these new women after the war left visible tension. For example, Vera Brittain who worked as V.A.D. nurse wrote in her 1933 memoir Testament of Youth, observed:

“I read in the official Report by the Joint War Committee of the British Red Cross Society and Order of St. Johnthe following words – a little pompous, perhaps, like the report itself, but doubtless written with the laudable intention of reassuring the anxious nursing profession: ‘The V.A.D. members were not… trained nurses nor were they entrusted with trained nurses’ work except on occasions when the emergency was so great that no other course was open.’”

Despite claims that these V.A.D. nurses only performed the duties of trained nurses when needed, the reality of the war was that their services were desperately needed both at home and abroad. More often than not, this put the women mere miles away from the front lines to deal with the most gruesome of injuries inflicted in war by new technologies such as explosive artillery, mechanized weapons of war, machine guns and chemical warfare. Once the war ended in 1918, many members of the V.A.D. entered a variety of professions that included writers, poets, actresses, and other jobs that were not directly medical in nature.

The women themselves had to undergo strict rules and regulations which were subject to change as the influx of new volunteers during the war transformed the dynamic of everyday life regarding military care. While some considerations were practical, others were an attempt to control behavior of these women coming from a variety of ages and experiences. Being a V.A.D. volunteer would be first job for some of these middle and upper-class women. Instructions sent out in July 1915 for all new hospital V.A.D.s included:

“1. …If the skin is broken, however slightly, it should be covered with gauze and collodion before assisting at an operation or doing a dressing… 3. All powder, paint, scent, earrings, or other jewelry, etc., should be avoided, as the using of such things invites criticism, and may bring discredit to the Organisation.”

Other conditions included keeping their white uniforms clean and tidy, which would have been nearly impossible in situations of taking care of dire injuries. Even though these women were performing medical assistance when needed, they were held to a standard that placed them as being the face of the volunteer organization.

As the war-ravaged Europe, British military leaders called for reform to make it easier to volunteer as seen in the 1916 statement, “A simple way out of the difficulty is a course of ten lectures and ten instructions in first-aid and nursing.” (Davidson, 98) Rather than train for a few months before deployment, these lessons could be completed in a fraction of the time, though no amount of training would fully prepare them for the horrors of war. A commonality of them found across personal accounts of V.A.D. nurses was that the experiences would last with them for a lifetime.

This often overlooked subject continues to fade from popular memory as each generation is further removed from the experiences of mass warfare. These women carried themselves with dignity and professionalism as they witnessed some of the worst injuries in modern history. Furthermore, the compulsion of these British women to act demonstrated the agency of women at the time of World War I as active participants. Undoubtedly, these women saved a great number of lives and their contributions to humanity should be acknowledged in face of the atrocities of war. While we as a society can hope to avoid such conflicts in the future, the efforts of these women teach the value of selflessness and the true meaning of loss through war as detailed by their memoirs.

Eric Schmidt, History with a concentration in Modern European studies, Class of 2018


Literature and Websites

  • “Voluntary Aid Detachment.” QARANC, at: http://www.qaranc.co.uk/voluntary-aid-detachment.php (Accessed April 14, 2018).
  • “Women’s Roles on the Front Line.” BBC News. March 06, 2014. Accessed April 14, 2018. http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/0/ww1/26374718(Accessed April 14, 2018)
  • Bagnold, Enid. A Diary Without Dates, 1-146. London: W. Morrow & Company, 1918.
  • Brittain, Vera. Testament of Youth: An Autobiographical Story of the Years 1900-1925. London: Gollanz, 1933.
  • Davson, Win. “Voluntary aid detachments.” Journal of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland15, no. 2 (1993): 98-100.
  • Light, Sue. VAD Life, at: http://www.scarletfinders.co.uk/183.html (Accessed April 14, 2018).


First World War recruitment poster for the Voluntary Aid Detachment, exact date unknown Wounded soldiers in Antwerp, 1918 Violet Jessop (1857-1971) in her Voluntary Aid Detachment uniform, no date

Enid Bagnold's Autobiography

Almost everyone's childhood is boring‐except one's own and Enid Bagnold's. At 80, she has written a splendid memoir, which seethes with a fledgling's energy, lunging back and forth among the decades. As a small girl, the future author of “Serena Blandish,” “National Vel vet,” “The Loved and Envied” and eight plays, including “The Chalk Garden” and “The Chinese Prime Minister,” was “tropically over developed” by early years in Jamai ca, “rowdy with health.” Descended from sea captains, with a great‐uncle Who saw flying saucers, she hated church, which made her “howl like a dog.” Still, “I rested my teeth on the wood of the pew in front as I knelt and prayed: ‘God, make me famous.’ “ In her teens, she nearly murdered a German headmistress who accused her of lifting a leg “to attract men.”

Gleefully aware of her own “self delight,” greedy for praise, she hur tled into experiences that were scarce for girls of her generation. She worked for Frank Harris, who told her, “Sex is the gateway to life,” and then took her through the gateway in an upstairs room at the Cafe Royal. It was the ritual—which suits many young girls—of initiation by a man not loved. For some years, she thought sheɽ rather be a mis tress than a wife, savoring “the sense of conquest, the trying‐out of oneself as though one were a sword.” Her first love was Prince Antoine Bibesco, who later told her that heɽ loved her for three days. “A love affair has so few remembered in cidents. It only changes from good to bad.”

Eventually, she was bullied into marriage by Sir Roderick Jones, the head of Reuters he nearly left her after their wedding‐night because he thought she kicked him in her sleep. “He could be furious with a foot stool,” while she was “untidy, dis obedient, conceited, arrogant, and self‐engrossed.” The evocations of their brawling marriage—“the truces, the fun, the love, the rage”—and her years with four children, two houses, stacks of servants, infinite (often un wanted) guests, and the necessity of writing for three hours every day, truly make family‐life sound worth while—as some can hardly believe it is today. Her husband said it was extraordinary “That we should be shut up together. And fight so hard. And make a success of it.”

However, the attendant elegance (and the frank snobbery) will make some readers uneasy. The footnotes are unsettling, thus: Nöel* / Nöel* Coward Juliet Duff*/*Lady Juliet Duff. And the dining room with pil lars, sofas with dolphins and angels and garlands, Dresden mirrors, all that poshness and privilege can prompt the rebellion that many now feel against possessions, plus the sus picion of roots, and the recoil from blood‐relations. Still, these reactions oddly heighten the value of these memoirs—as history. Now, when many feel that ownership is cor rupting, and that whatever people accumulate (including relatives) must be junked soon, the mere concept of continuity is amazing. She recom mends it.

Throughout, Miss Bagnold's friends and acquaintances leap to life in a few words: Edith Evans as “a stupid genius,” or the unnamed director who had “the swift, offended fury of a man who had been wounded before in his life. His scars flushed easily,” or the eccentric Oliver de Reuter, who once ripped off and threw away the whites of the fried eggs heɽ ordered in a restaurant: “there stood a waiter with a plate ready to catch them. ‘Since the womb,’ said Oliver, ‘I have not eaten albumen!” Her descriptions of mad ness are painfully brilliant, as a character snaps out of sanity and can't return.

There are devastating passages on failure in the theatre—“The Ob server critic (a nice man, I hear) wrote as though he had seen vomit on the stage”—and reflections on the compulsion to keep going: “Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it's the answer to every thing. To uselessness. It's the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it's a cactus.” Some of her para graphs are too rich for quotation: they ought to be recited.

As in “The Chinese Prime Minis ter,” she has “written of age as a special landscape. curious, not devoid of pleasure, a time for ad venture (when the duties got less).” Nearly all of her pages suggest fur ther essays or chapters: one hopes that many more will follow, in her style of “conveying the incredible as though it was credible—or convey ing the truth as though it was incredible.”

Becoming Lady Jones and a first novel

In 1920 Enid married Sir Roderick Jones, at which point she became Lady Jones. That compelled her to become a society hostess, another role she wasn’t quite comfortable with, either. She was apparently insecure about managing servants and organizing dinner parties.

She also found this role to be somewhat in conflict with her desire to write, though she kept writing through it all. She continued to use her maiden name for her writing career.

Her first work of fiction was the 1924 novel, Serena Blandish or the Difficulty of Getting Married (1924). There was a dry spell until 1930, when Alice & Thomas & Jane was published. Perhaps this is when she was having and raising her four children. Despite her difficulty with the other people in her life, she was said to have been a devoted mother.

The Pram in the Hall – Enid Bagnold Writer and Mother

I have never thought it a particular advantage to know the person you are writing about. You will have known them at a particular time or in a particular role. Above all, for a child to write about a parent seems to me a recipe for disaster – unless you state from the outset this is a very one sided memoir. Children are often the least useful witnesses a biographer can find. Yet, try as we might to be objective, I think biographers too should plead guilty to subjectivity, to seeing their subject through a particular prism. Perhaps they lived in the same village, studied at the same college but in particular I believe that what we really cannot shed is the age we are at time of writing. However much I think I can imagine a particular emotion, or I am sure that I know what a particular experience must have felt like, I want to take this opportunity – openly and unequivocally – to admit my failure. Only now, having hit 60 myself and living through an age-obsessed time when the secret of eternal youth is promised from many quarters, do I really understand what Enid Bagnold – not exactly a vain woman but one who cared about her looks – meant when she wrote that one of the few counterbalancing factors for the pain of growing old was that, thanks to fading eyesight, she couldn’t really see all those wrinkles and grey hairs that worried her so much in anticipation – (although true to her novelist’s calling, exaggerating to make her point – she is not being wholly truthful even here as of course magnifying mirrors were around in the 1980’s.) But I can now at least understand why she wanted to have a face lift (and how radical was that in the 1970’s) and I admire her honesty and truthfulness about discussing this far more today than I could possibly have 30 years ago.

And here she is as Gaudier Brzeska saw her on the eve of WW One

So, I am immensely grateful to Persephone for giving me this second chance to look at Bagnold thirty years on. And of course to Faber Finds for republishing my biography. I’m relieved to say I haven’t found a different person or a different story. But the focus, if I were writing the book today, might be slightly sharper here or hazier there. The emphasis on different aspects of her life might be weightier here and pruned there. Actually I don’t think it would be a better book (I would say that wouldn’t I?) But I now understand in a wholly empathetic way why, in her 60’s and 70’s, she was still burning with ambition to write a successful play. I remember, with shame, a feeling in my 20’s that when I reached 60 I’d be happy to stay at home quietly knitting whereas in fact my desire to travel, to meet people, to achieve and to experience life is not only unabated it is in some ways greater as I am acutely aware of the limited time left and…and I can see why it risks appearing frankly unbecoming in someone of my years just as it did for Enid.

No, I think, or at least hope, that writing the biography of EB in my late 20’s gave me a youthful enthusiasm which suited my subject and gave me a perspective on her young days and early married life I might not have had now. I was rooting for her when the boyfriend didn’t work out (after all it wasn#39t so far away for me that I could still remember those rejections, sharp longings and early fumblings) but most of all I deeply identified…and I say this fully aware of strictures by that great biographer Richard Holmes that self-identity with one’s subject is the first crime of a biographer…with her passionate desire to have babies and having had them to have more of them and then to be the best mother there had ever been. I understood the passionate and oh so unexpected flood of love when her first golden-haired child arrived – love neither she, nor I, knew we possessed. And then she found it a second time for her equally beautiful son – just as I was to do. My pigeon pair as I learned. The Squire, her truly great novel not just about motherhood but about what she believed it meant to be a woman, springs from that deep well of unconditional love. Enid wanted to go on and on, bringing up such treasures.

So let’s go back a bit. Who was Enid Bagnold? In her own sparkling and idiosyncratic autobiography (entitled I am tempted to say with no artifice but of course there was artifice aplenty) ‘Enid Bagnold’s autobiography’, published in 1969, she writes that she was driven to explore family history because of her fascination that “sperm had been shot across two centuries to arrive at me”. Such an earthy – and original – simile was typical of her writing (she once described her own prose as ‘beautiful vomit’) but what she is also revealing is an intense fascination with herself. Not unusual for ‘a born writer!’ as she called herself. When I came to research her biography I found all her notebooks and scrapbooks were embellished with directions/ guidance for a putative biographer – me! Pictures of the Franco-Romanian princes, Antoine and Emmanuel Bibesco, for example, princes who had been close friends of Proust, were annotated with helpful comments like ‘this is the brother who committed suicide’ or ‘here we are visiting a church together’!

But Antoine Bibesco, the man she always adored, was never going to marry the plump and rather jolly Miss Enid Bagnold, daughter of Colonel Arthur Bagnold, a man who was as much engineer as soldier, and the former Miss Ethel Alger. They were, as her parents regularly reminded her, gentlefolk, and had been for generations. Enid was constantly testing her parents either by her requests to paint nude models when she studied with Sickert (turned down) or her request to visit the old roué journalist Frank Harris, her editor as well as lover, when he was in Brixton prison – agreed to “because people of breeding do not abandon a friend in need,” her father told her.

Prince Antoine married Elizabeth Asquith, daughter of the former prime minister, and Enid had to get over it. It was, as she understood, a dynastic match, and in the event not a happy one. At the outset of world war one, Enid trained as a VAD nurse and, after working in a grim hospital catering for the war wounded, turned her experiences into a blistering book, Diary Without Dates, that by bringing her fame and praise from HG Wells – but loathing from Virginia Woolf, who despised the pushy Bagnold girl – almost made up for not winning Antoine. Fame was something she craved ever since winning a poetry competition at her avant garde school, Priorsfield run by the Huxley family, and, recognising how sweet was its taste. She never gave up that search. She needed fame throughout her life – ‘the murmur of delight so madly wanted’ – not only for its own sake but to prove to Antoine how she had triumphed in life. Just as the Great War was ending she drove an ambulance in France – (Antoine had told her this would be an ‘awfully chicque’ (sic) thing to do) – fell briefly in love with a married man and came home to a social scene she felt she was getting too old for.

Knowing that everything she experienced in life was copy…or the stuff of novels…she wrote a book about those experiences called ‘The Happy Foreigner.’ It did not quite make the transition from fact to fiction, perhaps something she never quitemastered, and it did not bring her the success of the previous book.

So she settled in 1920, nudging 31, for marriage to Sir Roderick Jones, chairman and chief executive of Reuters news agency and that was my link into the story. All biographers crave some link that makes them not just an adoring fan – (although I was that, having loved National Velvet as a child who went riding almost every weekend) – and not just a vulture either. I had begun my working life at Reuters and knew that although Jones was deeply unpopular in the company – mostly because of his arrogant, dictatorial ways – there was a rich personal archive held at 85, Fleet Street where I had been a terrified young foreign correspondent not so long ago.

In Roderick, Enid found a dapper little man with a title – although she always maintained that ‘Lady Jones’ was a ghastly name I don’t quite believe her any more on that one – which gave her some social standing through his position as Head of Reuters. But above all she acquired security and respectability and, well if not passion, then a feeling that she was loved. Roderick had made her a business-like proposition from the start. “Marry me and you will have a better opportunity for self- development than you will with many men.” For his part he clearly enjoyed the intellectual lustre if not the slight raffishness that Enid, being his wife, gave him. Throughout their married life she wrote him wonderful letters. He may have been demanding but he was her anchor in a storm, her central pivot, a large sturdy tree under whose branches she sheltered. She knew she could rely on him. Even when their situations were reversed after he had been forcibly retired and she was the breadwinner, she made him feel HE was the important one. It was love of a kind, but passionate love? I don’t think so although somehow the marriage, with its complicated sex life, survived. When I started researching my biography and met Timothy, her golden boy who lost a leg at Anzio, one of the first ‘facts’ he told me was that his parents always had separate bedrooms,…(Yes, I know I said children are the least reliable sources especially when it comes to explaining about their parents’ sex lives.) “My mother was of the generation that believed sex was a matter of ‘lie back and think of England,’ he explained to me at our first meeting, clearly worried I would not quite understand that it was possible never to share a bedroom with a husband yet produce 4 children!

“She kept a tin of biscuits by the bed,” he added, perhaps to give added veracity to his story. For what Enid adored more than the act itself was the result.

However, as Roderick had a healthy appetite for sex , often with attractive younger women, Enid found herself required to make up a foursome on occasions, once notably with a handsome young Reuter bureau chief who was rather at a loss to know what was the correct behaviour on such a bizarre occasion – I think one of the most difficult interviews for my biography was with the surviving elderly wife of this particular bureau chief to ask her if she knew anything about her husband’s feelings towards his boss’ wife. I can still remember the stony silence that greeted my inept questioning. Later in life, Enid enjoyed the company of a ‘walker,’ often a gay man with whom she would not be required to have sex.

Perhaps her loss of virginity to Frank Harris, the man with whom she “went through the gateway to life in an upper room in the Café Royal,&#34 as she elegantly and memorably put it in her memoir, had ruined the idea of sex for her. He may have been an experienced lover but he was also an experienced liar and cheat. It was a rite of passage. Now she was ‘promoted from corporal to sergeant’, she wrote of how she felt the day it happened. But it was hardly romantic. Nowhere does she ever speak of the affair as fulfilling or one of mutual love , and passion. The best she can come up with is to describe Harris many years later as ‘a man who made sin seem glorious.’

I think Enid did have one other grand passion in addition to Antoine and fame – she fell in love with her gynecologist, Dr Harold Waller. But that too was, I believe, an idealized love – although he may have been the ideal man for her – after all he was the man who gave her what mattered most in her life – her motherhood. I think the years between 31, after she married, and her early 40’s were in many ways her happiest. They were fertile in every sense and deeply creative. And she was no longer searching for a husband. She settled for the comfort of love not the romance, believing you could not have both together, and became a dreadful show off about being a mother. As she wrote to Marthe Bibesco (Antoine’s cousin by marriage) on the eve of Dominick’s birth in 1930 “you do not know what it is fully to be a woman until you have had at least 3 children and I am having four.” She’d be roasted alive today for that sort of politically incorrect boasting. And in fact she made a number of enemies even then, often speaking her mind without reflection on a number of topics, not just pregnancy and motherhood.

For she was, as the comment above makes clear, very pleased with her life and the same day that Dominick was born her children’s book – Alice and Thomas and Jane – rooted in experience like everything she ever wrote – was published. It was a charming picture book recreating the Jones’s family life with some humour and exaggeration but full of cooks, governesses and nurses as well as ‘Fortnum jerseys’ – details which make it unacceptable today. The illustrations were by Enid together with some by 9 year old Laurian, which made her mother especially proud. She half hoped that Laurian might become a talented artist and, until the child was seven, decided she should have no formal education but just visit art galleries and attend drawing classes. Enid’s views on child rearing were eccentric and highly advanced in some ways such as her loud insistence on breastfeeding and including children in adult conversations – but in other ways curiously Spartan and old fashioned such as believing it was good for them to swim in freezing cold water and to sleep outdoors. Strangest of all, she fostered something called ‘Yearning Toys’…toys that were put on an impossibly high shelf to be looked at during meal times and longed for “so as to give them unsatisfied desires.”

Where on earth did that come from?

These ideas made Enid rather famous as an expert on child welfare with a growing reputation. She was inspired by Harold Waller to do whatever he advised and in this way became a tireless supporter of ‘the Babies’ Club’ which he set up in Chelsea. It was, according to a newspaper on the day it opened, ‘a west end club to teach rich mothers east end wisdom’ and Lady Jones became its best known spokeswoman. Harold Waller reprimanded Enid for publicity seeking but they made up, for he needed her financial support almost as much as she needed his emotional support and admiration since thinking about babies and children was occupying Enid at this time above all else.

The Squire represented the distillation of 15 years of motherhood and of marriage to Roderick. It was, though, more homage to Dr Waller than to her husband. She had been making notes of her experiences, thoughts and reactions to childbirth for some time and believed that a novel on this topic had never been tackled in the way she intended to tackle it. She had trained as an artist, still had an artist’s eye and saw it as a still life of motherhood.

But she had been side tracked by another novel also based on Jones’s family life which had come out in 1935 and been phenomenally successful National Velvet. By 1937 she was ready to return to The Squire, as she was determined to call this new book in spite of fierce arguments with her publishers who never liked the androgynous title and wanted something softer, more sentimental such as The Door of Life or Squire Martha. But Enid refused to allow the squire to be named, wanting something more universal. Her success with National Velvet (although it had not yet become the film which catapulted the gorgeous 12 year-old Elizabeth Taylor to fame) strengthened her hand and so The Squire was what it became.

The story, if something so plotless can be called that, centres around a small tightly knit circle of women, what she called ‘the English harem’. It was paradoxically a masculine sort of portrait where men were purposely eliminated because Enid had seen clearly “that all the day of a woman’s busy family life was made up by herself alone, herself as ruler.” The idea that motherhood gave her a moral authority was deeply felt and a theme she was to return to in her later play, the Chalk Garden. Just as in that play, the husband is absent, off stage throughout the action. This time in the earlier version, he is away on a business trip and the squire is ‘a rich, strong fertile woman with a large domain to rule.’ She provides the house with its pulsating vigour, she is the centre of life with a determination and energy that Enid herself exuded. She described the mother as ‘one of those old stable archways with a clock ticking life away in the summit of the arch through which life and her children flow…perhaps like an arch over a river. I can get no nearer than that.’

She knew not all women felt about babies as she did and she tackled this theme by introducing her close friend Caroline, a portrait of her aristocratic friend, Cynthia Asquith. Beautiful Caroline is restless thinking only of her lover in Paris. The Squire listens patiently to her problems “with her lover on her lap. The complications of love seemed to her indescribably stale, the baby much fresher. She herself felt like a woman who is old and free.” Enid told Cynthia it was she who had provided the spark for the book when she had told Enid one day ‘I couldn’t do without love by which you meant in love and from that sentence, which I never forgot for it rang a bell in me, I evolved the love woman in the squire. They provided the contrast. She thinks I am a woman, pondered the Squire, fit to listen to love. But I am a mother and I have a contempt and a weariness of such childish things.’

But the key figure in this English harem is not actually Caroline but the midwife based on Ethel Raynham Smith, the other half of Harold Waller’s team. Raynham Smith, a tiny birdlike woman, believed that motherhood was a perfectible science and, more dangerously, had high ideals about the creation of a greater, more healthy race. Enid was putty in her hands.

Enid became pregnant for the last time, aged 40, when Roderick was at the height of his affair with 19 year- old Mary Lutyens, daughter of the architect. Mary, still vibrantly alive when I was writing the biography, told me how shocked she had been to discover this. Roderick tried to console her with ‘my dear little girl,’ which almost made things worse. And doubtless he had tried to console Enid with this last pregnancy or ‘reconciliation baby’ as so many couples called them. During several memorable interviews I had with the delightful Mary she also revealed how when she told Roderick she was engaged he insisted on a return of the love letters between them and she found to her horror that her grammar had been corrected with a red pen.

One thing I could not understand as a newly married mother with my two young babies in love with life and my husband, was how Enid put up with her husband’s constant philandering. I shall not name names here – when I did in my biography it landed me with a libel suit. But Roderick needed a regular supply of attractive young girls and would invite them down for weekends at Rottingdean. The children – again perhaps not reliable witnesses as to the emotions – were only too aware at a certain level of what was going on. The young ladies were put up in the night nursery, which led directly by a balcony to Roderick’s bedroom. They called these young ladies invited to stay in front of their mother – “Daddy’s little bits.”

As part of my research, I turned to Lady Diana Cooper, a woman who also had much to put up with in the philandering department and who became Enid’s closest friend, for an explanation. Enid was mesmerised by Diana’s beauty and was to write a fine novel about her, The Loved and Envied, but how did Enid put up with this when it so obviously hurt?

“Oh Anne,” she said fixing me with those penetrating blue eyes, “you really don’t understand, do you? It’s so common to mind.” Of course, Enid did mind but I think she sublimated that pain in the knowledge that she was the one who provided the beating heart of the household. Her rebuttal to Caroline is also a rebuttal to Roderick. His amours were trivial. What she did was what gave life substance.

The practicalities of how Enid and Roderick created four children I was to discover through the Reuter archive. They sent each other notes making assignations for a particular time of day or night which Roderick – who may have been out for the evening with whomever was his latest girlfriend – would find pushed under his bedroom door. These pencil written, often scribbled notes on whatever scrap of paper was to hand were preserved, bizarrely, in the Reuter Archive. ‘Wouldn’t it be lovely to have another pram in the hallway,’ Enid wrote to her husband once, only too aware of the weight in that sentence. ‘Please come in to my room early tomorrow morning’. Cyril Connolly, who coined the pram in hallway phrase in his Enemies of Promise, was a friend. Antoine, now also only a friend and aware of the talent he thought she was squandering, reinforced the message. But as both of these men should have known, since they themselves were not immune to displacement activities, there were many other enemies of promise in addition to prams.

I found dozens of romantic billets doux -not all to do with making arrangements for intercourse – like the note scribbled from Fortnum’s and delivered to 85 Fleet Street by private messenger as she was buying a wedding present for someone else. The act reminded her of their early courtship and devotion to each other.

Today such a message would be an SMS, lost to posterity…but that’s another story.

So my conclusion today is not only that she clearly loved Roderick, who gave her what she wanted – strong, sturdy, independent-minded children – but that he took the edge off her worries and fears and insecurities. I don’t believe that Enid as a starving writer in a garret, would have necessarily been any more successful or productive. Perhaps motherhood both unleashed her creativity yet at the same time denied her time, because of course it did that. By the way, Enid did in fact work in something of a garret or at least a tower. Irene Selznick, the powerful American theatre producer, was very funny about its Spartan aspect years later. It felt freezing cold to anyone who went in but Enid herself had a secret heated pad. But she invented some useful rules for working in her tower, which I have copied. Stick to a routine, always go into your study every day and do something there that you can call work. Nowadays we’d call that doing emails or social networking but in pre-internet days it was harder. And never leave your work at the end of a chapter or even paragraph. Leave it in mid thought so you can pick up where you were easily the next day. They are rules I have tried to follow as I too have tried to balance writing with motherhood, as so many of us today have and still do.

For the debate is more topical than ever. In fact it burst open only a few months ago in an especially virulent form with a book written by an American, Lauren Sandler, who advocated female writers sticking to one child only. Did that unleash the heavens! Zadie Smith and Jane Smiley, among others, riposted that, on a practical level, having more than one child allowed them to entertain each other but on a philosophical level why was the number of children a problem just for women? The idea that motherhood was inherently somehow a threat to creativity was just absurd. Why did no one ever comment that Dickens for example had ten children? What IS a threat to all women’s freedoms, they argued, is the issue of time, which is the same problem whether you are a writer, factory worker or nurse. “We need decent public day care services, partners who do their share, affordable childcare and/or a supportive community of friends and family,” Smith wrote.

Of course, being a mother eats into the time available even if you have nannies and housekeepers, as Enid did. But more than that being a mother fills your head, it takes up thinking time, worrying time, let alone active time taking them riding and for extra-curricular lessons, which Enid also did. Enid cared desperately about what sort of children she created, she was intensely proud of all her children she cared what they thought of her and what they became. She shared their triumphs and disasters. Yet being a writer demands concentration and focus and can be obsessive. So of course there is a clash. Enid semi solved it by writing about family life family life, children and motherhood, which she found deeply fascinating as long as it was her own, and which gave her her topics and, since she was always an autobiographical writer, arguably threw her a life line. Without children would she have written more books or plays? Did she really care about quantity? I think quality mattered more to her both in her writing output and in her children.

There is, however, one part of the story as told by me thirty years ago that I would be grateful for an opportunity to put right and that was her intensely close, although often frustrating, relationship with her third child, Richard Jones. Richard, tall and handsome, is Boniface in The Squire. He was born with a learning disorder that fell almost entirely on Enid’s plate to master or live with and she was not going to hide him away, ever. In The Squire Boniface is erratic, intense, single minded. He was “red of face asking no help intent upon some inner life which would not swim up into his difficult speech…inarticulate, eccentric living like a mole in his world, putting into dangerous execution plans for which no one had the key.” How clearly Enid understood him and I have no doubt that today, trying to solve Richard’s troubled life would have provided her with more than enough material for a painfully honest and factual book. The archive was bulging with letters to doctors and educational specialists trying to find a way forward for this beloved child. Worrying about Richard ate into her brain, her emotions and time. And since he did manage to lead an independent life even after his mother died it would only be fair to say she succeeded in doing the best that she could for him at the time. But the family were very protective and I was told by them and others that if I referred to the struggles Enid had trying to discover what was wrong with Richard, or referred in detail to ‘a learning disability’ I would destroy the life Richard had made for himself. For his sake I had to compromise and yet I know only too well that as a biographer I was failing her. Of course for those who knew Richard the story is there and actually almost all biographers if they are writing about someone whose relatives or lovers are still alive need to make some sort of compromise…but still, I knew how this worry had consumed a part of the pleasure of any success she had. I am pleased to be able to acknowledge that now.

And then there is the pleasure of becoming a grandparent, so important for Enid that it provided the inspiration for her best and best known play, The Chalk Garden. This play revived recently by the Donmar to huge acclaim, makes clear that Enid saw herself living in a matriarchy in which men played secondary roles.

Of course I was aware of the seed for the idea but I never understood at a deep emotional level – which I like to think I do now – of the profound joy she derived from seeing the continuation of her line…we’re back to the phrase I quoted at the beginning ‘sperm through the centuries.’ Knowing she had grandchildren rooted her in the future, she cared what her grandchildren thought of her, she dedicated her autobiography to two of them, Annabel and Hattie. So, as I look back I would probably write not more about her old age but more about the struggle she had to balance writing with every part of home life, not just being a mother. And here Roderick was not helpful. She needed a 21 st century husband who unloads the dishwasher takes children to ballet classes and is really involved in thinking about their upbringing.

Today, a psychiatrist would doubtless have much to say on the subject of Roderick clearly feeling excluded from this domestic world where all the decisions were taken by women. Enid believed (although she may never have actually used the words) that motherhood gave her a moral authority denied to men.

Age and experience have helped me better understand that about her.

But am I any further along the road of answering the question: writer or mother? Was she a better mother because she was a writer – it gave her a focus and satisfaction – or a better writer because she was a mother? She left one vital clue in a letter she wrote to her mother on her honeymoon:

“Here, where I’m only a bride it’s a joy to remember there’s a country, where I am occasionally something else.” Substitute bride for mother and you may have an answer. Or you may conclude (like me) that some questions just don’t have an answer.

Enid Bagnold

(or Lady Jones) (1889–1981). Known for her broad range of subject and style, English novelist and playwright Enid Bagnold was a true talent in capturing the voice and drama of life around her. Her works easily transcended the pages of books and plays, and many were adapted into dramas for the stage and screen.

Bagnold was born on Oct. 27, 1889, in Rochester, Kent, England. Her father was an army officer and as such the family moved frequently Bagnold spent her early childhood in Jamaica and attended schools in England and France. She served with the British women’s services during World War I, and her earliest books—A Diary Without Dates (1917) and The Happy Foreigner (1920)—describe her wartime experiences. In 1920 she married Sir Roderick Jones (1877–1962), who for 25 years was chairman of the news agency Reuters, Ltd.

Bagnold’s best-known work is the novel National Velvet (1935), which tells the story of an ambitious 14-year-old girl who rides to victory in Great Britain’s Grand National steeplechase on a horse bought for only £10. A motion picture of the same title was made from the novel in 1944 starring Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney. Two quite different novels are The Squire (1938 also published as The Door of Life), which conveys the mood of expectancy in a household awaiting the birth of a child, and The Loved and Envied (1951), a study of a woman facing the approach of old age. As a playwright, Bagnold achieved great success with The Chalk Garden (1955) a motion-picture version was produced in 1964. Her other stage works include Four Plays (1970) and A Matter of Gravity (1975).

Enid Bagnold’s Autobiography (from 1889) was published in 1969. She died on March 31, 1981, in London.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

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This collection has no restrictions.

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Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item Date (if known) Enid Bagnold Letters to Robin Maugham Box and Folder Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Enid Bagnold - History

Exhibition of the works of author and playwright

Enid Bagnold

(author of National Velvet)

drawn from the private collection of writer Hugo Vickers

Saturday 5 th May – Saturday 4 th August 2012

Rottingdean Museum, The Green, Rottingdean, East Sussex

Enid Bagnold, CBE (27 October 1889 – 31 March 1981), was a British author and playwright, best known for the 1935 story National Velvet which was filmed in 1944 with Elizabeth Taylor.

She was a nurse during World War I, writing critically of the hospital administration and being dismissed as a result. She was a driver in France for the remainder of the war years. She wrote of her hospital experiences in Diary Without Dates and her driving experiences in The Happy Foreigner .

In 1920, she married Sir Roderick Jones (Chairman of Reuters) but continued to use her maiden name for her writing. They lived at North End House in Rottingdean, near Brighton, East Sussex, (previously the home of Sir Edward Burne-Jones), the garden of which inspired her celebrated play The Chalk Garden . They had four children. Their great-granddaughter is Samantha Cameron, wife of the current Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader David Cameron. Lady Jones died in 1981 and is buried at St Margaret’s Church.

Rottingdean Museum is mounting an exhibition of her life and work which will open on Saturday 5 th May 2012. The Museum Curator, Marcus Bagshaw comments “This first major exhibition of Enid Bagnold’s work will focus on the extraordinary success of National Velvet , the Rottingdean set novel that has never been out of print since its publication in 1935. In 1944 it was made into a hugely successful film starring a 12-year old Elizabeth Taylor and tells the story of a young girl, Velvet Brown, who rides an unprepossessing piebald horse she’d won in a raffle, The Pie, to victory in the Grand National. The exhibition will also feature material on other Rottingdean based works including the 1955 Broadway and West End play The Chalk Garden , filmed in East Sussex in 1964 by Universal Internationl as a starring vehicle for a 14-year old Hayley Mills. A collection of Enid Bagnold first editions, original film exploitation material, sketches, letters and candid photographs drawn from the private collection of writer and friend of Enid Bagnold Hugo Vickers , as well as a collection of never before seen photographs of Bagnold and her family “at home in Rottingdean” taken by legendary photographer Cecil Beaton during the 1940’s and 1950’s, will all serve to reaffirm Bagnold’s reputation as one of Rottingdean’s most celebrated and successful writers”.

Rottingdean Museum, The Grange, The Green, Rottingdean, East Sussex, BN2 7HA Opening Times: Weekdays 10.00am – 4.00pm (except Wednesdays), Sundays 2.00pm – 4.00pm. Tel. 01273 301004


  1. ^Weblog John Simkin
  2. ^A Diary Without Dates
  3. ^The Happy Foreigner
  4. ^Profile: "A Celebration of Women Writers", upenn.edu accessed 28 September 2014.
  5. ^ Clarke, Melonie Gumley-Mason, Helena (26 November 2013). "Samantha Cameron's Sari Diplomacy". The Lady. Archived from the original on 25 May 2014 . Retrieved 25 May 2014 .
  6. ^Works by Enid Bagnold at Project Gutenberg
  7. ^Cairo in the War: 1939-1945 (1989) ـ-241-12671-1, pg. 83
  8. ^ abc [
  9. Commire, Anne (1971). Something About the Author. Gale Research Inc. p.㺑. ISBN  978-0-8103-0050-7 . ]

Watch the video: Barenaked Ladies - Enid Video


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