Florence Margaret Smith Biography


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Born Florence Margaret Smith, Stevie Smith belonged to a family made up of women from the time she was four, when her father disappeared to make a career for himself as a sailor. That year, 1906, she moved with her mother, sister, and aunt to a house on Avondale Road in the London suburb of Palmers Green. Smith lived there for the rest of her life. By 1924, her mother had died and her sister had moved to Suffolk. From then on, she shared the house with her adored Aunt Margaret, whom Smith affectionately called the Lion Aunt.

Smith was not university educated and was never married. The nickname Stevie, acquired when she was eighteen, is a reference to Steve Donaghue, a famous jockey. After her graduation from secretarial training college, she got a job as a private secretary at a publishing firm in 1923. She kept this job for thirty years, until she finally devoted herself to writing full time. She died of an inoperable brain tumor in 1971.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Stevie Smith is a complicated, often controversial, poet who dazzles readers with her variety of styles, moods, voices, and literary references. She is considered simple and naïve by some critics, yet others find her one of the most intellectual and sophisticated of modern poets. Her work was first popular in the 1930’s, then made a resurgence in the 1960’s. Since then many readers have been fascinated by Smith’s unique blend of humor and despair.{$S[A]Smith, Florence Margaret;Smith, Stevie}

Smith was born Florence Margaret Smith in Hull. After her father abandoned the family, her mother was financially unable to support herself and her two daughters. Her mother’s sister, Aunt Maggie, moved in with them, offering financial and emotional support. She located a house at 1 Avondale Road in Palmer’s Green, a suburb north of London, and sent for her sister and the two children, Molly and Florence Margaret. This was to be Smith’s home throughout her life.

Smith liked the neighborhood around Palmer’s Green, but childhood illnesses forced the family to send her, at age five, to a children’s rest home. She stayed there for three years, coming home only briefly for holidays. The rigidity of life there caused her to consider suicide when she was eight. This thought, however, freed her; she realized that accepting death gave her ultimate control over her life. After her mother’s death in 1919, she again had to accept death. This idea of an understanding with death would become a key theme in her writing.

Smith initially did well in school, but later she rebelled under the harsh disciplinary regulations at London Collegiate. After secretarial training, she worked for the publishing firm C. Arthur Pearson as secretary to Sir Neville Pearson; she remained there until 1953. Since her job was not taxing, Smith had spare time and she used it to read voraciously. She began to keep notebooks recording her ideas and thoughts....

(The entire section is 801 words.)