Authors: Sheila Kaye-Smith

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

English novelist

Author Works

Long Fiction:

The Tramping Methodist, 1908

Starbrace, 1909

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)

Gallybird, 1934

Superstition Corner, 1934

Rose Deeprose, 1936

The Lardners and the Laurelwoods, 1948

Short Fiction:

Joanna Godden Married, and Other Stories, 1926

A Wedding Morn, 1928

Faithful Stranger, and Other Stories, 1938

Poetry:

Willow’s Forge, and Other Poems, 1914

Saints in Sussex, 1923

Nonfiction:

John Galsworthy, 1916

Anglo-Catholicism, 1925

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)

Biography

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.{$I[AN]9810000128}{$I[A]Kaye-Smith, Sheila[Kaye Smith, Sheila]}{$I[geo]WOMEN;Kaye-Smith, Sheila[Kaye Smith, Sheila]}{$I[geo]ENGLAND;Kaye-Smith, Sheila[Kaye Smith, Sheila]}{$I[tim]1887;Kaye-Smith, Sheila[Kaye Smith, Sheila]}

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.

BibliographyDoyle, Paul A. “Sheila Kaye-Smith.” In British Novelists, 1890-1929: Modernists, edited by Thomas F. Staley. Vol. 36 in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit: Gale Research, 1985. A good, concise overview.Hopkins, Robert T. Sheila Kaye-Smith and the Weald Country. London: C. Palmer, 1925. A critical assessment that includes photographs.Kaye-Smith, Sheila. All the Books in My Life: A Bibliobiography. New York: Harper, 1956. Most of the essential details on Kaye-Smith’s life and personality are available in her two volumes of autobiography.Kaye-Smith, Sheila. Three Ways Home. New York: Harper, 1937. The first of Kaye-Smith’s two autobiographies.Malone, Andrew E. “The Novelist of Sussex: Sheila Kaye-Smith.” Fortnightly Review 120 (August, 1926):199-209. Criticism.Walker, Dorothea. Sheila Kaye-Smith. Boston: Twayne, 1980. A thorough examination of Kaye-Smith’s life and work.
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