Katherine Cecil Thurston

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Katherine Cecil Thurston
Picture of Katherine Thurston.jpg
BornKathleen Annie Josephine Madden
(1874-04-18)18 April 1874
Cork, Ireland
Died5 September 1911(1911-09-05) (aged 37)
Cork, Ireland
Genrepolitical thriller
Notable worksJohn Chilcote, M.P.
(m. 1901; div. 1910)

Katherine Cecil Thurston (18 April 1874 – 5 September 1911) was an Irish novelist, best known for two political thrillers.


Born Kathleen Annie Josephine Madden at 14, Bridge Street, Cork, Ireland, the only daughter of banker Paul J. Madden (who was Mayor of Cork in 1885–1886, and a friend of Charles Stuart Parnell) and Eliza Madden (born Dwyer). She was educated privately at her family home, Wood's Gift, Blackrock Road.

By the end of the 19th century she was contributing short stories to various British and American publications, such as Pall Mall Magazine, Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Harper's Magazine, Windsor Magazine and others.

On 16 February 1901, five weeks after her father's death, she married the writer Ernest Temple Thurston (1879-1933). They separated in 1907 and were divorced in 1910 on grounds of his adultery and desertion. The suit went undefended. Thurston "complained that she was making more money by her books than he was, that her personality dominated his, and had said that he wanted to leave her."[1]

Katherine Thurston's novels achieved success in Britain and the United States. Her best-known work was a political thriller entitled John Chilcote, M.P. (as The Masquerader in the United States), published in 1904 and on the New York Times bestseller list for two years, ranking as third best-selling book for 1904 and seventh best in 1905. Her next book, The Gambler, came out in 1905 and it too made the US best-selling lists for that year. This was the first time the New York Times had recorded any author, female or male, as having two top-ten books in a single year. In 1910, she was back on the same list at No. 4 with her novel Max, the story of a young Russian princess, who flees disguised as a boy to the Montmartre Quarter of Paris, on the night before her arranged marriage. Her 1908 novel The Fly on the Wheel, about illicit love, was described in 2022 as a "lost classic of Irish fiction".[2]

John Chilcote, M.P. was adapted for the stage by John Hunter Booth and opened on Broadway in 1917. It was filmed four times, the first silent film by American Pathé in 1912 under the title The Compact and starring Crane Wilbur; the second a 1920 Russian/French co-production entitled Chlen parlamenta. Two more films were made using the American book title The Masquerader, in 1922 and then by the Samuel Goldwyn Company in 1933 as a "talkie" starring Ronald Colman.

An epileptic, Thurston's blossoming career was cut short at the age of 37 when she was found dead in her hotel room in Cork. The official enquiry on 6 September 1911 gave the cause of death as asphyxia as result of a seizure.[3] She had been due to remarry later that month. to Dr A. T. Bulkeley Gavin. She was buried in St. Joseph's Cemetery, Cork. The story of her final years and her relations with Bulkeley Gavin are the subject of a published thesis by C. M. Copeland, written while studying at the Napier University, Edinburgh.[4]

Partial bibliography[edit]

  • The Circle (1903).[citation needed]
  • John Chilcote M.P. (US title: The Masquerader, 1904).[5]
  • The Gambler (1905).[6]
  • The Mystics (1907) (previously serialized in Blackwood's Magazine 1906).[7]
  • The Fly on the Wheel (1908).[8]
  • Max (1910).[9]


  1. ^ Report (8 April 1910), "Divorce Case", Irish Times, p. 4
  2. ^ Nolan, Megan. "Fly on the Wheel: Megan Nolan on a lost classic of Irish fiction". RTÉ. Retrieved 15 October 2022.
  3. ^ Report (7 September 1911), "Death of Writer", Irish Times, p. 7
  4. ^ Copeland, Caroline (2007). The Sensational Katherine Cecil Thurston: An Investigation into the Life and Publishing History of a 'New Woman' Author (PDF). ©Caroline Copeland 2007. pp. various. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  5. ^ "John Chilcote MP", The Graphic, 15 October 1904
  6. ^ "The Gambler" review, London Daily News, 15 February 1906.
  7. ^ "The Mystics" review, London Daily News, 22 February 1907
  8. ^ Buckingham, James Silk; Sterling, John; Maurice, Frederick Denison; Stebbing, Henry; Dilke, Charles Wentworth; Hervey, Thomas Kibble; Dixon, William Hepworth; MacColl, Norman; Rendall, Vernon Horace; Murry, John Middleton (28 March 1908). "Review: The Fly on the Wheel by Katherine C. Thurston". The Athenaeum (4196): 380.
  9. ^ "Max", Nottingham Post review, 28 September 1910.

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