Margaret Storm Jameson was born in Whitby in 1891. She excelled academically and attended Leeds University where she obtained a first class degree in English Literature and Language. She obtained the highest grades in her year and was given the chance to study in London for her MA , writing her dissertation on ‘Modern Drama in Europe’. Tellingly the man who came second was given a fellowship.
Nonetheless Jameson’s dissertation was published in 1920 and was very well-received by critics at the time. She published her first novel, The Pot Boils in 1919. Following this she wrote prolifically until her death in 1986 publishing 45 novels, several edited collections, three autobiographies and a range of journalism.
During this time she served from 1938-1944 as President of English PEN (Poets Essayists and Novelists) a role which took her all over Europe liaising with politicians, soldiers and writers. She and Herman Ould, then Secretary of PEN, were so touched by the plight of European writers under Fascist and Nazi dictatorships that they themselves began to write letters, organise Visas and even raise money to help them to escape the continent. They also arranged a fund to support these writers and their families to continue their work in England.
Despite her crucial contribution to English letters and indeed English politics during her life, Jameson has been all but erased from many histories of the period. Only now are writers and academics beginning to appreciate the important role she played, hence the recent flurry of publications surrounding her life and work. Jennifer Birkett and Chiara Briganti have recently published an edited collection, Writing In Dialogue (2009), in which a range of academics engage with Jamesons work.
Birkett herself has written the first ever biography on Jameson, providing a thorough appraisal of her life and work.
Margaret Storm Jameson: A Life was published in 2009.
Jameson herself also wrote about her life in her two-volume autobiography Journey From the North (1969-70. Republished by Virago in 1984).
For more information on Jameson’s own novels and collections please go to the publications page.