Rose Macaulay Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Though principally a novelist, Rose Macaulay (muh-KAW-lee) wrote prolifically in several genres. Early in her career, she published two slim volumes of verse, The Two Blind Countries (1914) and Three Days (1919), both of which earned favorable reviews in the British press. For many years, Macaulay contributed reviews and essays to such publications as The Spectator, The Guardian, and the New Statesman; she produced two generally well-received book-length critical studies, Milton (1934; revised 1957) and The Writings of E. M. Forster (1938). Some of Macaulay’s best prose can be found in two of her widely acclaimed travel books, Fabled Shore: From the Pyrenees to Portugal (1949) and Pleasure of Ruins (1953).


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Throughout much of her lifetime, Rose Macaulay was one of Great Britain’s best-known authors. Many of her lighter sketches and essays appeared in the Daily Mail, Evening Standard, and other newspapers and periodicals aimed at large, general audiences; some of her fiction appeared in serialized form in Eve, a popular English magazine aimed at women and filled mainly with froth. Macaulay’s more serious works, however, consistently earned high praise in Britain’s most respected literary publications; her twenty-third and final novel, The Towers of Trebizond, won the prestigious James Tait Black Memorial Prize. In 1951, Macaulay was awarded an honorary doctorate of letters from Cambridge University; in 1958, she was named a Dame Commander of the British Empire. Her death from heart seizure in 1958 brought forth warm and respectful tributes from many leading literary figures, including Harold Nicolson, Rosamond Lehmann, and Anthony Powell.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Bensen, Alice. Rose Macaulay. New York: Twayne, 1969. This standard account is especially valuable because there are few books devoted to Macaulay. Offers a survey of her widely varied output: novels, short stories, historical works, travel books, essays, and book reviews. Her tolerance for and sympathy with others are brought out.

Crawford, Alice. Paradise Pursued: The Novels of Rose Macaulay. Madison, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1995. Explores Macaulay’s beginnings as an Edwardian novelist, her World War I novels, her treatment of women and civilization in the 1920’s, her novels of the 1930’s, and her final novels. Includes appendices on Macaulay’s childhood reading and on other writings. Provides notes and bibliography.

Emery, Jane. Rose Macaulay: A Writer’s Life. London: John Murray, 1991. The standard biography of Macaulay, written with grace and sensitivity to the life and the work. See especially the introduction, “Three Voices of Rose Macaulay.” Includes notes and bibliography.

Passty, Jeanette. Eros and Androgyny: The Legacy of Rose Macaulay. London: Associated University Presses, 1988. Sees Macaulay as a feminist pioneer who repudiated the traditional pattern of the male-dominated family in favor of an androgynous ideal, arguing that people should pursue their aims in a gender-free way. Gives an account of Macaulay’s work, the most comprehensive available, with the feminist theme always in the forefront. Her correspondence with Father Hamilton Johnson and its importance for her work receive detailed attention.

Smith, Constance Babington. Rose Macaulay. London: Collins, 1972. Presents a detailed account of her family background and sheds light on key episodes in her life, such as her unrequited love for Rupert Brooke. Gives synopses of most of her major works. A useful feature is an appendix that contains tributes to Macaulay from a number of her friends, including Harold Nicolson and Rosamond Lehmann.