Ann Bridge

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Ann Bridge
Born Mary Ann Dolling Sanders
(1889-09-11)11 September 1889
Porters, near Shenley, Hertfordshire, England[1]
Died 9 March 1974(1974-03-09) (aged 84)
Nationality British
Occupation Author and mountain climber

Ann Bridge (11 September 1889 – 9 March 1974) is the pseudonym of Mary Ann Dolling (Sanders), Lady O'Malley, also known as Cottie Sanders. Bridge wrote 14 novels, mostly based on her experiences living in foreign countries, one book of short stories, a mystery series, and several autobiographical non-fiction books.

Early life[edit]

She was born Mary Ann Dolling Sanders, nicknamed "Cottie", the seventh of eight children of an English father, James Harris Sanders (1844–1916), and an American mother from Louisiana, Marie Louise Day (1852–1923). Her father was a successful international salesman of metal products. In 1900, her parents took her and their other children on a visit abroad to Paris and Switzerland and Cottie, "born with an inexplicable craving for heights," was enchanted by the Alps and became interested in mountain climbing. The family continued to spend summers in Switzerland.[2]

The Sanders family moved to London in 1904 when Cottie's father encountered financial difficulties. Cottie passed the entrance exams to enter Oxford University, but did not attend, instead staying home to help her mother recover from the death of a son. She lamented missing "the mental discipline and the serious scholarship a University can give." Intellectually, she described herself as "half-baked."[3] By 1911, her father had lost almost all of his fortune, and the family moved into a six-room flat in London. Cottie went to work as an assistant secretary for the Charity Organization Society. She described herself during this period as "poor" but happy.[4]

In 1913, on a visit to Argyll, Cottie met Owen St. Clair O'Malley, a diplomat. They were married on 25 October 1913. The couple had two daughters and a son.[5] The marriage was apparently not a happy one. She was described as "stormy, troubled, and troublesome" and "an unloved wife who made herself 'one of the best-loved of all women novelists' in the twentieth century."[6]

A dust jacket of one of her books in 1949 stated that "she became the youngest member of the Alpine Club at the age of 19, with sixteen first-class ascents to her credit. She is a great gardener; she has an interest in and knowledge of archaeology rare in her sex; and she has deep learning in her own craft of writing."[7]

Friendship with George Mallory[edit]

In 1909, Cottie Sanders met mountain climber George Mallory in Zermatt, Switzerland. The two became close friends and mountain climbing partners. Cottie shared Mallory's "mystical love of the mountains." The relationship between the two is elusive. She was a "climbing friend" or a "casual sweetheart." She called him the first friend she had made on her own. When Mallory died on Mount Everest in 1924, Cottie wrote a memoir of him. Her memoir was never published, but it provided much of the material used by later biographers such as David Pye and David Robertson and a novel Everest Dream.[8]

Travels and literary career[edit]

In 1919, the O'Malleys moved to Bridge End, a hamlet in Ockham, Surrey. Cottie later took the name of the hamlet, "Bridge," as part of her pen name, along with her middle name Ann. In 1925 she and her children accompanied her husband abroad to a diplomatic posting in Beijing, China. She returned to England in 1927 because of a sick child and began writing to supplement the couple's income. In 1932, her first, and best known novel, Peking Picnic, was published under her pseudonym of Ann Bridge. It was a success and won the Atlantic Monthly prize of $10,000. She followed that novel up with several others that featured restless, upper-class heroines in exotic environments. She visited Albania twice in 1934 and in 1936 which resulted in the novel Singing Waters. She lived with her husband in several countries besides China, including Turkey and Portugal. In 1941, fleeing German advances, the O'Malleys escaped via the Trans-Siberian Railroad and Cottie, or Ann Bridge, spent a year in the US before returning to Turkey.[9]

Bridge's novel Illyrian Spring (1935) is credited with increasing tourism to Yugoslavia. Frontier Passage (1942) was a source of information used by British intelligence to set up a World War II anti-German resistance movement in Spain. The Dark Moment (1951) traces the decline of the Ottoman Empire and the role of women in the revolution.[10]

In her later years, Bridge turned more toward writing auto-biographical works and a mystery series featuring an amateur sleuth named Julia Probyn and set in several different countries. One of her last books was Moments of Knowing about her experiences with the paranormal.


Although very popular in their day, Bridge's books are mostly out of print and have received little critical attention, generally being regarded as "entertaining travelogues." She explored "serious human relationships" in exotic locales and described personal, historical, and political developments with skill and veracity. Her protagonists have been described as "snooty." [11][dead link]

List of works[edit]


  • Peking Picnic (1932)
  • The Ginger Griffin (1934)
  • Illyrian Spring (1935)
  • The Song in the House: Stories (1936)
  • Enchanter's Nightshade (1937)
  • Four-Part Setting (1938)
  • A Place to Stand (1940)
  • Frontier Passage (1942)
  • Singing Waters (1943)
  • And Then You Came (1948)
  • The House At Kilmartin (1951)
  • The Dark Moment (1951)
  • A Place to Stand (1953)
  • The Tightening String (1962)
  • Permission to Resign (1971)

Julia Probyn mystery series

  • The Lighthearted Quest (1956)
  • The Portuguese Escape (1958)
  • The Numbered Account (1960)
  • The Dangerous Islands (1963)
  • Emergency in the Pyrenees (1965)
  • The Episode at Toledo (1966)
  • The Malady in Madeira (1970)
  • Julia in Ireland (1973)

Non fiction

  • The Selective Traveller in Portugal (1949)
  • Portrait of My Mother (1955)
  • Facts and Fictions: Some Literary Recollections (1968)
  • Moments of Knowing (1970)


  1. ^ Ann Bridge © Orlando Project Retrieved 2016-10-2016.
  2. ^ Bridge, Ann A Family of Two Worlds New York: MacMillan Company, 1955, p. 168, 217
  3. ^ Bridge, p. 215
  4. ^ Bridge, p. 221
  5. ^ "Lady Mary Dolling (Sanders) O'Malley Biography" Book Rags,, accessed 19 March 2013
  6. ^ "EPS Review # 31 – The Ginger Griffin", accessed 19 March 2013
  7. ^ "Ann Bride: The Hatchet Job" Vulpus Libris, accessed 19 March 2013
  8. ^ Neff, Kelly Joyce. "Everest Dream", accessed 19 March 2013
  9. ^ "Lady Mary Dolling (Sanders) O'Malley Biography" Book Rags,, accessed 19 March 2013
  10. ^ "Lady Mary Dolling Sanders) O'Malley Biography" Book Rags,, accessed 19 March 2013
  11. ^ "Ann Bride: The Hatchet Job" Vulpus Libris, accessed 19 March 2013