Pamela Hansford Johnson 1912–1981
English novelist, essayist, critic, dramatist, poet, and mystery writer.
Johnson was a prolific writer whose novels defy rigid categorization. This is perhaps because her style ranged from early twentieth-century experimentalism to the third person narrative typical of nineteenth-century British novelists. Her plots, themes, and settings varied with each work. Johnson's variability is also indicated by the fact that her first novel, This Bed Thy Centre (1935), an immediate critical and popular success, focused on ignorance of sexuality and was viewed as rather "permissive" in its day; years later, in the tract "On Iniquity" (1967), she questions the mores of permissive society.
In the mid-1930s Johnson was briefly engaged to Dylan Thomas, who suggested the title of her first novel and with whom she shares similar literary devices, such as the use of interior monologues and the "stream of consciousness" technique. Johnson married Neill Gordon Stewart, though, and collaborated with him on two murder mysteries under the joint pseudonym Nap Lombard. The stories were written as escapist fiction and are not representative of her oeuvre. Subsequently, Johnson married C. P. Snow and together they composed several short plays which they both later dismissed as frivolous. Her novels have always received the most attention.
Although Johnson wrote two trilogies and has several characters appear in more than one volume, each of her novels is unique, differing from the others in some way, whether in presentation, resolution, or character types. In general, her characters attempt to achieve a balance between their inner and outer lives. Her comic touch helps to ease her studies of modern morality.
(See also CLC, Vols. 1, 7; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 1-4, rev. ed., Vol. 104 [obituary]; and Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 2.)