Rosemary Lilian Dickie was born in London and studied English, Russian, French, Italian and Old Church Slavonic at universities in England, France and Italy. educated in England and at the Sorbonne in Paris. In 1927, she married James Edmonds, but the marriage was later dissolved, although she kept the surname. During World War II, she worked for the British government as the official translator to French leader Charles De Gaulle in London. Though de Gaulle wished to retain her services after the war, it would have meant giving up her British citizenship, and after a brief stint in Paris, Rosemary Edmonds resigned.
She was hired by Penguin books and became the foremost British translator of Leo Tolstoy. She first translated Anna Karenin in 1954, and then War and Peace in 1957; it was revised in 1978 and remains the standard English text. Other famous Russian literary texts she translated included Alexander Pushkin’s The Queen of Spades and Other Stories (1962), Ivan Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons (1965), and works by Nikolai Gogol.