Emily Sheila Kaye-Smith was born on February 4, 1887, at St. Leonards-on-Sea, Sussex, the shire whose atmosphere she later recaptured in many of her novels. In her girlhood, as she relates in her autobiography, Three Ways Home, she had three ambitions: to live alone in the country, to become a famous novelist of rural life, and to be “extremely High Church.” All three were realized in a different form: She lived many years in Sussex, not alone but happily married to Theodore Penrose Fry; by her Sussex novels she achieved distinction, if not superlative fame; and, like her husband, who at the time of their marriage was a Church of England clergyman, she became in 1929 a Roman Catholic. Her father, a physician with a practice at Hastings, and her mother, the daughter of a French Huguenot who had emigrated from the Channel Islands to Scotland, were both Protestants.
Kaye-Smith wrote of her imaginative tendencies in childhood. Like the Brontë sisters at a comparable age, she created fictional characters and plots. By the time she was fifteen she had composed (but not written) between forty and fifty romances. In her last two years at school she wrote thirteen novellas in exercise books. After the publication of two novels—The Tramping Methodist and Three Against the World—she experienced a spiritual crisis and became first an agnostic and then a Swedenborgian. Sussex Gorse, her first major novel, appeared in 1916,...
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