Rosamond Lehmann Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Rosamond Nina Lehmann (LAY-muhn) was a consummate stylist and a careful observer whose attention to detail has secured her place in British letters. Born into a literary family, Lehmann was the second daughter of Rudolph Chambers and Alice Davis Lehmann. Her father was a liberal member of Parliament who frequently wrote for Punch. Her mother was a descendant of John Wentworth, an early lieutenant governor of New Hampshire. Lehmann’s sister, Beatrix, became a highly regarded actress. Her brother, John, four years her junior, was a poet and, after 1938, a partner in the Hogarth Press, established by Leonard and Virginia Woolf, who were close friends of the Lehmann family. Lehmann’s early marriage to Leslie Runciman ended in divorce shortly after she completed her first novel. In 1928 she married Wogan Philipps, later Lord Milford, father of her two children. Lehmann’s marriage to Wogan Philipps ended in divorce in 1942.

Lehmann became famous after the publication of her first novel, Dusty Answer, at the age of twenty-six. To many of her contemporaries in the 1920’s, she was part of a vanguard, including Virginia Woolf and James Joyce, who chose female characters as the voices of a new fictional style called “stream of consciousness.” This novel, remotely autobiographical, explores the special consciousness of adolescence as the protagonist grows into early adulthood; the book is distinguished in part by its frankness with regard to sexual attitudes. Her second novel, A Note in Music, overtly depicting lesbianism, is one of the first modern novels to address the theme of homosexuality directly, and its publication in 1930 caused...

(The entire section is 688 words.)


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Rosamond Nina Lehmann was born near London on February 3, 1901. On the same day, Queen Victoria was buried, a fact that would later strike Lehmann as having symbolic significance. She received her early education at home, partly through the use of the enormous library of her father, Rudolph Lehmann, an editor of Punch magazine. Her later education was at Girton College of Cambridge University.

An early marriage ended in divorce, attributable, Lehmann believed, to the upheaval arising from her sudden fame. A second marriage, to Wogan Philipps, also ended in divorce; a long relationship with the poet Cecil Day Lewis also ended unhappily. Lehmann’s primary bonds were with family: her brother, poet-critic John Lehmann; her sister, actor Beatrix Lehmann; and her two children, Hugo and Sally. Sally’s sudden death from polio in 1958 ended Lehmann’s writing for some time; when she began to write again, her works reflected her new interest in what may imprecisely be called spiritualism. In her eighties, she served as vice president of the British College of Psychic Studies, and she counseled other parents who had lost children. Lehmann died in London in 1990, at the age of eighty-nine.