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Margaret Kennedy (1) [1896–1967]

This page covers the author of The Constant Nymph.

For other authors named Margaret Kennedy, see the disambiguation page.

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Margaret Kennedy was the eldest in a family of four children. Joyce Cary, the novelist, was a cousin on her father's side. Margaret attended Cheltenham Ladies' College, where she began writing, and in 1915 went up to Oxford University to read modern history. She made her publishing debut with a work of history, A Century of Revolution: 1789-1920 (1922). In 1925, she married David Davies, a barrister who later became a county court judge and a national insurance commissioner. They had three children. He was knighted in 1952, making her Lady Davies. Margaret Kennedy is famous today for her second novel, The Constant Nymph, which she adapted into a highly successful London play that starred Noƫl Coward and later John Gielgud; it was also made into wildly successful films in 1928, 1933, and 1943, and into a television drama in 1938. She was a prolific writer who produced further bestsellers, including Escape Me Never (1934), but none achieved the phenomenal worldwide popularity of The Constant Nymph. She also published a biography of Jane Austen and a study of the art of fiction. Novelist Serena Mackesy is her granddaughter.
EXCERPT from Biography of Magaret Kennedy by Violet Powell on OxfordDNB.com: Having become famous, originally, as the author of a tragic fairy-tale was something of a handicap to Margaret Kennedy when it came to gaining a reputation as a novelist to be taken seriously. She was, however, much in demand as a judge of literary prizes, and as an active and forceful member of professional committees. Of her eight pre-1940 novels, A Long Time Ago (1932) was one of the most psychologically perceptive, contrasting the disillusions of early middle age with the uncertainties of children struggling towards puberty, their family party on an Irish holiday being disrupted by a seductive prima donna. On the other hand The Midas Touch (1938), a Daily Mail book of the month, dealt with a money-making gift, passed down through generations with a climax of Gothic disaster.

After the Second World War Margaret Kennedy returned to novel writing with The Feast (1950), a Literary Guild choice in the USA. Among her later novels, Troy Chimneys (1953) won the James Tait Black memorial prize, while The Heroes of Clone (1957) owed much of its dark humour to its author's experience as a scriptwriter for films. Keenly interested in the technique of writing, Margaret Kennedy published a short biography of Jane Austen in 1950, and a study of the art of fiction, Outlaws on Parnassus in 1958, both works of percipient criticism. She accepted, in due course, an invitation to become a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Margaret Kennedy was tall and dark; she was a good pianist and had a fine singing voice. Music was a passion which she shared with her husband. They were also fond of mountain walking and were fortunate in finding a house near Cadair Idris in north Wales, from where such walks were inexhaustible. The loss of Sir David Davies, in 1964, left his widow alone to face the debilitating illness of her son, James. In spite of these blows, she continued to make plans for further books until she died in her sleep on 31 July 1967 at the house of a friend, 1 Le Hall Place, Adderbury, Oxfordshire.
EXCERPT from "Women, Celebrity, and Literary Culture between the Wars" by Faye Hammill: Yet Kennedy deserves to be remembered for more than a single book and a single character. Her critical and creative texts offer intriguing analyses of celebrity, genius, taste, and art. Her writing explores cultural value, and at the same, her best-selling yet critically acclaimed novels pose a serious challenge to cultural hierarchy and to the metanarratives of literary history."

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