May Sinclair c. 1912
24 August 1863|
Rock Ferry, Cheshire
|Died||14 November 1946
|Occupation||Novelist and poet|
May Sinclair was the pseudonym of Mary Amelia St. Clair (24 August 1863 – 14 November 1946), a popular British writer who wrote about two dozen novels, short stories and poetry. She was an active suffragist, and member of the Woman Writers' Suffrage League. May Sinclair was also a significant critic in the area of modernist poetry and prose, and she is attributed with first using the term stream of consciousness in a literary context, when reviewing the first volumes of Dorothy Richardson's novel sequence Pilgrimage (1915–67), in The Egoist, April 1918.
She was born in Rock Ferry, Cheshire. Her father was a Liverpool shipowner, who went bankrupt, became an alcoholic, and died before she was an adult. Her mother was strict and religious; the family moved to Ilford on the edge of London. After one year of education at Cheltenham Ladies College, she acted as caretaker for her brothers, as four of the five, all older, were suffering from a fatal congenital heart disease.
From 1896 she wrote professionally, to support herself and her mother, who died in 1901. An active feminist, Sinclair treated a number of themes relating to the position of women, and marriage. She also wrote non-fiction based on studies of philosophy, particularly German idealism. Her works sold well in the United States.
Around 1913, at the Medico-Psychological Clinic in London, she became interested in psychoanalytic thought, and introduced matter related to Sigmund Freud's teaching in her novels. In 1914, she volunteered to join the Munro Ambulance Corps, a charitable organization (which included Lady Dorothie Feilding, Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm) that aided wounded Belgian soldiers on the Western Front in Flanders. She was sent home after only a few weeks at the front; she wrote about the experience in both prose and poetry.
She wrote early criticism on Imagism and the poet H. D. (1915 in The Egoist); she was on social terms with H. D. (Hilda Doolittle), Richard Aldington and Ezra Pound at the time. She also reviewed in a positive light the poetry of T. S. Eliot (1917 in the Little Review) and the fiction of Dorothy Richardson (1918 in The Egoist). It was in connection with Richardson that she introduced "stream of consciousness" as a literary term, which was very generally adopted. Some aspects of Sinclair's subsequent novels have been traced as influenced by modernist techniques, particularly in the autobiographical Mary Olivier: A Life (1919). She was included in the 1925 Contact Collection of Contemporary Writers.
Sinclair wrote two volumes of supernatural fiction, Uncanny Stories (1923) and The Intercessor and Other Stories (1931). E. F. Bleiler called Sinclair "an underrated writer" and described Uncanny Stories as "excellent". Gary Crawford has stated Sinclair's contribution to the supernatural fiction genre, "small as it is, is notable". Jacques Barzun included Sinclair among a list of supernatural fiction writers that "one should make a point of seeking out". Brian Stableford has stated that Sinclair's "supernatural tales are written with uncommon delicacy and precision, and they are among the most effective examples of their fugitive kind." Andrew Smith has described Uncanny Stories as "an important contribution to the ghost story".
- Nakiketas and other poems (1886) as Julian Sinclair
- Essays in Verse (1892)
- Audrey Craven (1897)
- Mr and Mrs Nevill Tyson (1898) also The Tysons
- Two Sides Of A Question (1901)
- The Divine Fire (1904)
- The Helpmate (1907)
- The Judgment of Eve (1907) stories
- The Immortal Moment (1908)
- Kitty Tailleur (1908)
- Outlines of Church History by Rudolph Sohm (1909) translator
- The Creators (1910)
- Miss Tarrant's Temperament (1911) in Harper's Magazine
- The Flaw in the Crystal (1912)
- The Three Brontes (1912)
- Feminism (1912) pamphlet for Women’s Suffrage League
- The Combined Maze (1913)
- The Three Sisters (1914)
- The Return of the Prodigal (1914)
- A Journal of Impressions in Belgium (1915)
- The Belfry (1916)
- Tasker Jevons: The Real Story (1916)
- The Tree of Heaven (1917)
- A Defense of Idealism : Some Questions & Conclusions (1917)
- Mary Olivier: A Life (1919)
- The Romantic (1920)
- Mr. Waddington of Wyck (1921)
- Life and Death of Harriett Frean (1922)
- Anne Severn and the Fieldings (1922)
- The New Idealism (1922)
- Uncanny Stories (1923)
- A Cure of Souls (1924)
- The Dark Night: A Novel in Unrhymed Verse (1924)
- Arnold Waterlow (1924)
- The Rector of Wyck (1925)
- Far End (1926)
- The Allinghams (1927)
- History of Anthony Waring (1927)
- Fame (1929)
- Tales Told by Simpson (1930) stories
- The Intercessor, and Other Stories (1931)
- Bookrags biography
- Gary Crawford, "May Sinclair" in Jack Sullivan (ed) (1986) The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural, Viking Press, 1986, ISBN 0-670-80902-0 (pp. 387-8).
- E. F. Bleiler, The Guide to Supernatural Fiction, Kent State University Press, 1983
- Jacques Barzun, "Introduction" to The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural, (p. xxviii).
- Brian Stableford, "Sinclair, May" in David Pringle, ed., St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost and Gothic Writers. (Detroit: St. James Press, 1998) ISBN 1558622063 (pp. 538-539)
- Andrew Smith, Gothic Literature. Edinburgh; Edinburgh University Press, 2007 ISBN 0748623701 (p. 130)
- Theophilus Ernest Martin Boll (1973) Miss May Sinclair: Novelist; A Biographical and Critical Introduction
- Suzanne Raitt (2000) May Sinclair: A Modern Victorian
- George M. Johnson (2006) "May Sinclair: The Evolution of a Psychological Novelist" in Dynamic Psychology in Modern British Fiction. Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. pp. 101–143.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to May Sinclair.|
- The homepage of the May Sinclair Society
- An essay on May Sinclair, Dorothy Richardson, and 'Stream of Consciousness'
- A 2001 essay by Leigh Wilson (University of Westminster), from The Literary Encyclopedia
- Works by May Sinclair at Project Gutenberg
- Works by May Sinclair at LibriVox (audiobooks)
- The Cellar-House of Pervyse (1917) at Internet Archive
- We Brought Succour to Belgium (1914) at 'A Nurse at the War'
- May Sinclair and the First World War (Part 1) (1999) at National Humanities Center
- May Sinclair and the First World War (Part 2) (1999) at National Humanities Center
- May Sinclair papers Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, University of Pennsylvania