Una Mary Ellis-Fermor was born in London, England, and educated at South Hampstead High School. She won a scholarship to read English at Oxford University, where she developed a friendly scholarly rivalry with Vera Brittain. Prof. Ellis-Fermor became first a lecturer and later the Hildred Carlile Professor of English at Bedford College, University of London, and a distinguished scholar of English Renaissance literature. For her first book, Christopher Marlowe (1927), she won the 1930 Rose Mary Crawshay Prize for English Literature given by the British Academy.
In 1938, she published Twenty Two Poems, using the pseudonym Christopher Turnley, derived from Marlowe’s first name and the middle name of her father, Joseph Turnley Ellis-Fermor. Other books included The Jacobean Drama (1936), The Irish Dramatic Movement (1939), Masters of Reality (1942), The Frontiers of Drama (1945), and Shakespeare the Dramatist and Other Papers (1961). She was appointed the first General Editor of the 2nd series of the Arden Shakespeare in 1946, and translated Ibsen for Penguin Books.