Enid Bagnold

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Enid Bagnold
Bagnold in the 1910s
Enid Algerine Bagnold

(1889-10-27)27 October 1889
Died31 March 1981(1981-03-31) (aged 91)
(m. 1920; died 1962)
FamilyRalph Bagnold (Brother)

Enid Algerine Bagnold, Lady Jones, CBE (27 October 1889 – 31 March 1981) was a British writer and playwright best known for the 1935 story National Velvet.

Early life[edit]

Enid Algerine Bagnold was born on 27 October 1889 in Rochester, Kent,[1] daughter of Colonel Arthur Henry Bagnold and his wife, Ethel (née Alger), and brought up mostly in Jamaica. Her younger brother was Ralph Bagnold. She attended art school in London, and then worked as assistant editor on one of the magazines run by Frank Harris, who became her lover.[2][3] Harris and Bagnold are both portrayed in Hugh Kingsmill's novel The Will to Love (1919).[4]


Enid Bagnold Age c. 25 by Maurice Asselin

As an art student in Chelsea, Bagnold painted with Walter Sickert and was sculpted by Gaudier Brzeska. During the First World War she became a nurse; she wrote critically of the hospital administration, which won her fame, and was dismissed as a result. After that she was a driver in France for the remainder of the war years. She wrote about her hospital experiences in her memoir A Diary Without Dates,[5] and about her experiences as a driver in her first novel, The Happy Foreigner.[6][7]

On 8 July 1920, she married Sir Roderick Jones,[8] chairman of Reuters, but continued to use her maiden name for her writing. They lived at North End House, Rottingdean, near Brighton (previously the home of Sir Edward Burne-Jones), enjoying a glamorous social life. The garden of North End House inspired her play The Chalk Garden. The Joneses' London house from 1928 until 1969, seven years after Sir Roderick's death, was No. 29 Hyde Park Gate, which meant that they were the neighbours for many of those years of Winston Churchill and Jacob Epstein.

The couple had four children. The eldest was Laurian (born 1921, later the Comtesse d'Harcourt) who illustrated Alice & Thomas & Jane at the age of nine and National Velvet at 14.[9] Their great-granddaughter is Samantha Cameron, wife of the former Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader David Cameron.[10]

Death and legacy[edit]

Bagnold published her autobiography in 1969. She died on 31 March 1981 from bronchopneumonia[11] and was cremated at Golders Green.[12] Her biography, by Anna Sebba and published in 1987, revealed some of the more problematic and contradictory aspects of her life: literary feuds, her marriage, her approach to motherhood, pre-war Nazi sympathies, her morphine addiction, and her contempt of the many leading actors who appeared in her plays. Cecil Beaton called it "a strange, remarkable, original and warped life."[13]


Part of the former home of Enid Bagnold in Rottingdean

National Velvet (1935), is the story of a young girl who wins the Grand National steeplechase. A highly successful film version came out in 1944, starring the young Elizabeth Taylor. However, Bagnold's work includes a broad range of subject matter and style.[14] The Squire is a novel about having a baby. Bagnold's biographer Anne Sebba says that "although always described as a novel, the serious effort to discover the motivations of a mother and the instincts of children leads The Squire close to the realms of documentary." The feminist weekly Time and Tide described it as "a mark in feminist history as well as a fine literary feat."[15] The Loved and Envied (1951), is a study of approaching old age in which the protagonist, Lady Ruby MacLean, is thought to have been based on Lady Diana Cooper.[16]

An adaptation of National Velvet for the theatre was produced and directed by Anthony Hawtrey for his Embassy Theatre at Swiss Cottage in 1946, and published in Volume 2 of his Embassy Successes (1946).[17] But The Chalk Garden (1955), film version 1964, was Bagnold's greatest stage success. The Chinese Prime Minister was presented on Broadway in 1965 with Edith Evans.[18] A Matter of Gravity, originally titled Call Me Jacky, played on Broadway as a star vehicle for Katharine Hepburn in 1976.[19] These three plays, along with The Last Joke - a notable flop at the Phoenix Theatre in 1960 despite its star cast of John Gielgud, Ralph Richardson and Anna Massey - were collected together by Heinemann as Four Plays by Enid Bagnold in 1970.[20]

  • A Diary Without Dates (1917)
  • The Sailing Ships and other poems (1918)
  • The Happy Foreigner (1920)
  • Serena Blandish or the Difficulty of Getting Married (1924)
  • Alice & Thomas & Jane (1930). Illustrated by Laurian Jones
  • National Velvet (1935). Illustrated by Laurian Jones
  • The Squire, aka The Door of Life (1938), republished in 2013 by Persephone Books
  • Two Plays (1944) ('Lottie Dundass' and 'Poor Judas'), US edition Theatre (1951)
  • National Velvet (play, 1946)
  • The Loved and Envied (1951)
  • Gertie (1952 play)
  • The Girl's Journey (1954)
  • The Chalk Garden (1955, play)
  • The Last Joke (1960, play)
  • The Chinese Prime Minister (1964, play)
  • A Matter of Gravity (original title Call Me Jacky; 1967, play)
  • Autobiography (1969)
  • Poems (1978)
  • Letters to Frank Harris & Other Friends (1980)
  • Early Poems (1987)


  • Arts Theater Prize for Poor Judas (1951)[21]
  • Award of Merit Medal for The Chalk Garden (1956)[21]
  • Prize from the Academy of Arts and Letters for The Chalk Garden (1956)[21]



  1. ^ Sebba 1987, p. 9.
  2. ^ Drabble, Margaret (31 May 2008). "Upstairs, downstairs". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 December 2021.
  3. ^ Harding, John, Dreaming of Babylon. The Life and Times of Ralph Hodgson. (Greenwich Exchange 2008) https://greenex.co.uk/
  4. ^ Holroyd, Michael. Hugh Kingsmill, A Critical Biography (1964), pp.65-9
  5. ^ A Diary Without Dates
  6. ^ The Happy Foreigner
  7. ^ Profile: "A Celebration of Women Writers", upenn.edu; accessed 28 September 2014.
  8. ^ Sebba 1987, p. 104.
  9. ^ 'Laurian, Comtesse d'Harcourt - the original National Velvet girl', Daily Telegraph, 27 December 2011
  10. ^ Clarke, Melonie; Gumley-Mason, Helena (26 November 2013). "Samantha Cameron's Sari Diplomacy". The Lady. Archived from the original on 25 May 2014. Retrieved 25 May 2014.
  11. ^ Sebba 1987, p. 264.
  12. ^ Sebba 1987, p. 265.
  13. ^ Vicki Weissman. 'The Infuriating Bohemian', in The New York Times, 6 December 1987
  14. ^ 'Enid Bagnold: British Author', Encyclopaedia Britannica
  15. ^ The Squire, Persephone Books re-issue (2013)
  16. ^ 'The Loved and Envied', Literary Ladies Guide
  17. ^ Seymour-Smith, Frank. What Shall I Read Next (1953), p.179
  18. ^ Howard Taubman (3 January 1964). "Theater: 'Chinese Prime Minister': Enid Bagnold Comedy Opens at the Royale". New York Times. p. 14.
  19. ^ " 'A Matter of Gravity' Broadway" Playbill (vault), accessed December 5, 2016
  20. ^ Shellard, Dominic. Kenneth Tynan: A Life (2003), p.263
  21. ^ a b c [Commire, Anne (1971). Something About the Author. Gale Research Inc. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-8103-0050-7.]


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