The Tramping Methodist, 1908
Three Against the World, 1914 (also known as The Three Furlongers)
Sussex Gorse, 1916
Tamarisk Town, 1919
Green Apple Harvest, 1920
Joanna Godden, 1921
The End of the House of Alard, 1923
The George and the Crown, 1925
Shepherds in Sackcloth, 1930
The History of Susan Spray, 1931 (also known as Susan Spray)
Superstition Corner, 1934
Rose Deeprose, 1936
The Lardners and the Laurelwoods, 1948
Joanna Godden Married, and Other Stories, 1926
A Wedding Morn, 1928
Faithful Stranger, and Other Stories, 1938
Willow’s Forge, and Other Poems, 1914
Saints in Sussex, 1923
John Galsworthy, 1916
Mirror of the Months, 1931
Three Ways Home, 1937 (autobiography)
Speaking of Jane Austen, 1943 (with G. B. Stern)
More Talk of Jane Austen, 1949 (with G. B. Stern)
The Weald of Kent and Sussex, 1953
All the Books in My Life, 1956 (autobiography)
Emily Sheila Kaye-Smith was born on February 4, 1887, at St. Leonards-on-Sea, Sussex, the shire whose atmosphere she later recaptured in many of her novels. In her girlhood, as she relates in her autobiography, Three Ways Home, she had three ambitions: to live alone in the country, to become a famous novelist of rural life, and to be “extremely High Church.” All three were realized in a different form: She lived many years in Sussex, not alone but happily married to Theodore Penrose Fry; by her Sussex novels she achieved distinction, if not superlative fame; and, like her husband, who at the time of their marriage was a Church of England clergyman, she became in 1929 a Roman Catholic. Her father, a physician with a practice at Hastings, and her mother, the daughter of a French Huguenot who had emigrated from the Channel Islands to Scotland, were both Protestants.
Kaye-Smith wrote of her imaginative tendencies in childhood. Like the Brontë sisters at a comparable age, she created fictional characters and plots. By the time she was fifteen she had composed (but not written) between forty and fifty romances. In her last two years at school she wrote thirteen novellas in exercise books. After the publication of two novels–The Tramping Methodist and Three Against the World–she experienced a spiritual crisis and became first an agnostic and then a Swedenborgian. Sussex Gorse, her first major novel, appeared in 1916, at a time when Kaye-Smith was living in London, employed in government wartime service. For a time she became interested in the Oxford Tractarian movement.
At the end of 1918, feeling a positive call to religious conversion, she became an Anglo-Catholic. The novels Tamarisk Town, Green Apple Harvest, and Joanna Godden were written subsequently but reflect no marked Anglo-Catholic orientation. In The End of the House of Alard, however, she let her religious position be known. All these novels were well received, in particular Joanna Godden, her first novel centering on the life of a woman. All these works, moreover, were Sussex narratives, concerned with rural people and written with rich appreciation of their dialect. During these years Kaye-Smith acquired the designation “Sussex novelist”; critics suggested a comparison of her work with that of the “Wessex novelist” Thomas Hardy.
After her marriage in 1924, Kaye-Smith assisted her husband in his London parish. They moved to a Sussex farm, Little Doucegrove, some months before leaving the Church of England. There she continued to write until shortly before her death on January 14, 1956. Her later work includes two studies of Jane Austen, written together with the novelist G. B. Stern.