Early life and education
In 1903 he became a journalist, with moderate success.
During World War I he spent some time in Naval Intelligence.
In 1917 he joined the New Statesman as drama critic, and in 1920 became its literary editor. He wrote a weekly column under the pen-name "The Affable Hawk". During this time he recruited Cyril Connolly to the paper.
By 1928 he was losing interest in the New Statesman, and became the first editor of Life and Letters. Other periodicals he was associated with were New Quarterly and Eye Witness. MacCarthy became a literary critic for the Sunday Times, and several volumes of his collected criticism were published.
He was author of the short ghost story "Pargiton and Harby", reprinted in the Fourth Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories.
In 1906 MacCarthy married Mollie, the daughter of Francis Warre Warre-Cornish. She was a respected literary figure in her own right. Her sister Cecilia married William Wordsworth Fisher. The MacCarthys' daughter Rachel married the literary historian Lord David Cecil; their son was the actor Jonathan Cecil. He is buried at the Parish of the Ascension Burial Ground in Cambridge, with his wife.
- The Court Theatre (1907)
- Portraits (1931)
- Drama (1940)
- "MacCarthy, Charles Otto Desmond (MRTY894CO)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
- Jeremy Lewis Cyril Connolly: A Life Jonathan Cape 1997
- T. Avery, Desmond and Molly MacCarthy: Bloomsberries (2010)
- H. and M. Cecil, Clever Hearts: Desmond and Molly MacCarthy (1990)
- D. Cecil (ed.), Desmond MacCarthy the Man and his Writings (1984)
- Desmond MacCarthy at Find a Grave
- Works by or about Desmond MacCarthy in libraries (WorldCat catalog)