Marjorie Bowen

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Marjorie Bowen
Marjorie Bowen
Marjorie Bowen
BornMargaret Gabrielle Vere Campbell
(1885-11-01)1 November 1885
Hayling Island, Hampshire, England
Died23 December 1952(1952-12-23) (aged 67)
Kensington, London, England
Pen nameMarjorie Bowen, Joseph Shearing, George Preedy, Robert Paye
Zefferino Emilio Constanza
(m. 1912; died 1916)

Arthur L. Long
(m. 1917)

Margaret Gabrielle Vere Long (née Campbell; 1 November 1885 – 23 December 1952), who used the pseudonyms Marjorie Bowen and Joseph Shearing, was a British author who wrote historical romances, supernatural horror stories, popular history and biography.[1]


Bowen was born in 1885 on Hayling Island in Hampshire. She had a difficult childhood; her alcoholic father Vere Douglas Campbell left the family at an early stage and was eventually found dead on a London street. She and her sister grew up in poverty with a less than affectionate mother.[2] Bowen studied at the Slade School of Fine Art and later in Paris.[2] Her first fiction was a violent historical novel, The Viper of Milan (written when she was 16), set in medieval Italy.[2] The Viper of Milan was rejected by several publishers, who considered it inappropriate for a young woman to have written such a novel.[2] It went on to become a best-seller when eventually published.[2] After this, Bowen's prolific writings were the chief financial support for her family.

She was married twice: first, from 1912 to 1916, to a Sicilian, Zefferino Emilio Constanza, who died of tuberculosis, and then to Arthur L. Long. Bowen had four children; a son and a daughter (who died in infancy) with Constanza, and two sons with Long.[2] Her son with Long, Athelstan Charles Ethelwulf Long, was a colonial administrator.

In 1938, Bowen was one of the signatories to a petition organised by the National Peace Council, calling for an international peace conference in an effort to avert war in Europe.[3]

In an interview for Twentieth Century Authors, she listed her hobbies as "painting, needlework and reading".[2] Her cousin was the artist Nora Molly Campbell 1888-1971. Bowen died on 23 December 1952 at the St Charles Hospital in Kensington, London after suffering serious concussion as a result of a fall in her bedroom.[4]


Her total output numbers over 150 volumes with the bulk of her work under the 'Bowen' pseudonym. She also wrote under the names Joseph Shearing, George R. Preedy, John Winch, Robert Paye and Margaret Campbell. After The Viper of Milan (1906), she produced a steady stream of writings until the day of her death.Bowen's work under her own name was primarily historical novels. Bowen crafted a trilogy of historical novels about King William III. The novels are I Will Maintain (1910), Defender of the Faith (1911), and God and the King (1911) .[5] The 1909 novel Black Magic is a Gothic horror novel about a medieval witch."[6] Bowen also wrote non-fiction history books aimed at a popular readership.[2]

Under the pseudonym "Joseph Shearing", Bowen wrote several mystery novels inspired by true-life crimes. For instance, For Her to See (1947, AKA So Evil My Love) is a fictionalised version of the Charles Bravo murder.[7] The Shearing novels were especially popular in the United States, Moss Rose, The Golden Violet and Forget-Me-Not achieving both critical and commercial success, being championed by reviewers such as Phil Stong.[8] Until the late 1940s, the true identity of Shearing was not known to the general public, and some speculated it was the pseudonym of F. Tennyson Jesse.[8] Under the "George R. Preedy" pseudonym, she wrote two non-supernatural horror novels, Dr. Chaos and The Devil Snar'd.[9] Her last, posthumous, novel was The Man with the Scales (1954); it is about a man obsessed with revenge, and contains supernatural elements reminiscent of E. T. A. Hoffmann.[10] Many of these stories were published as Berkley Medallion Books. Several of her books were adapted as films. Bowen's supernatural short fiction was gathered in three collections: The Last Bouquet (1933), The Bishop of Hell, (1949) (featuring an introduction by Michael Sadleir) and the posthumous Kecksies, edited for Arkham House in the late 1940s, but not actually published until 1976.[1][11]

Critical reception[edit]

Bowen's books are much sought after by aficionados of gothic horror and received praise from critics. Graham Greene stated in his Paris Review interview (Autumn 1953), "I chose Marjorie Bowen [as a major influence] because as I have told you, I don't think that the books that one reads as an adult influence one as a writer...But books such as Marjorie Bowen's, read at a young age, do influence one considerably."[12] Horror reviewer Robert Hadji described Bowen as "one of the great supernatural writers of this century".[1] Fritz Leiber referred to "Marjorie Bowen's brilliant Black Magic".[13] Jessica Amanda Salmonson, discussing The Last Bouquet, described Bowen's prose as "stylish and moody, dramatic to the highest degree" and stated "what in other hands is merely tacky or gross is, from Marjorie Bowen, a superior art, chilling and seductive".[14] Sally Benson in The New Yorker, discussing the "Joseph Shearing" books: "Mr Shearing is a painstaking researcher, a superb writer, a careful technician, and a master of horror. There is no one else quite like him".[8] Reviewing The Crime of Laura Sarelle Will Cuppy stated "Those who want a good workout of the more perilous emotions will do well to read Mr. Shearing's impressive tale of love, death and doom... Join the Shearing cult and meet one of the most malevolent females in song or story".[8] In an article about women writers, the Australian newspaper The Courier-Mail described Bowen as "one of the best of our modern novelists".[15]Sheldon Jaffery stated that Bowen's "weird fiction ranks favorably with such distaff portrayers of the supernatural as Mary Wilkins-Freeman, Edith Wharton and Lady Cynthia Asquith."[16] By contrast, Colin Wilson's view of Bowen's work was negative: in a review of A Sort of Life by Grahame Greene, Wilson dismissed Bowen as a writer of "bad adventure stories".[17]



As Marjorie Bowen[edit]

  • The Viper of Milan (1906)
  • The Master of Stair (US title The Glen o' Weeping) (1907)
  • The Sword Decides (1908)
  • A Moment's Madness (1908)
  • The Leopard and the Lily (1909)
  • Black Magic: a Tale of the Rise and Fall of the Antichrist (1909)
  • I Will Maintain (1910, Revised 1943)
  • God and the King (1911)
  • Defender of the Faith (1911)
  • God's Playthings (1912)
  • Lover's Knots (1912)
  • The Rake's Progress (1912)
  • The Quest of Glory (1912)
  • The Governor of England (1913)
  • A Knight of Spain (1913)
  • The Two Carnations (1913)
  • Prince and Heretic (1914)
  • Because of These Things (1915)
  • Mr Washington (US title The Soldier from Virginia) (1915)
  • The Carnival of Florence (1915)
  • Shadows of Yesterday (1916) – short stories
  • William, by Grace of God (1916)
  • Curious Happenings (1917) – short stories
  • The Third Estate (1917); Revised edition, Eugenie, (1971)
  • Kings-at-Arms (1918)
  • The Burning Glass (1918)
  • Crimes of Old London (1919) – short stories
  • Mr Misfortunate (1919)
  • The Cheats, A Romantic Fantasy (1920)
  • The Pleasant Husband and other stories (1921)
  • Roccoco (1921)
  • The Haunted Vintage (1921)
  • The Jest. From "La Cena delle beffe" by Sem Benelli. Rendered into English and put into novel form by M. Bowen (1922)
  • Affairs of Men (selections from Bowen's novels (1922)
  • Stinging Nettles (1923) – a semi-autobiographical novel relating to Bowen's doomed marriage to Zefferino
  • Seeing Life! and Other Stories (1923)
  • The Presence and the Power: A Story of Three Generations (1924)
  • The Leopard and the Lily (1925)
  • Five People (1925)
  • "Luctor et Emergo": being an historical essay on the state of England at the Peace of Ryswyck, 1697. – history (1926)
  • Boundless Water (1926)
  • The Seven Deadly Sins: Tales (1926)
  • Mistress Nell Gwyn[18] (UK title: Nell Gwyn: A Decoration) (1926)
  • The Netherlands Display'd – Non-fiction
  • "Five Winds" (1927)
  • The Pagoda (1927)
  • Dark Ann (1927) – short stories
  • Exits and Farewells (1928)
  • The Golden Roof (1928)
  • The Story of the Temple and its Associations (1928)
  • The Countess Fanny (1928)
  • Holland (1928) – a tourist's guide to the Netherlands
  • William, prince of Orange (afterwards king of England) : being an account of his early life up to his twenty-fourth year (1928)
  • Sundry Great Gentlemen (1928) – biographies
  • The Winged Trees (1928)
  • Sheep's Head and Babylon, and Other Stories of Yesterday and Today (1929) – short stories
  • The Third Mary Stuart, Mary of York, Orange and England (1929)
  • Dickon (1929)
  • The Gorgeous Lovers and other Tales (1929)
  • Mademoiselle Maria Gloria by Bowen, with The Saving of Castle Malcolm. By Madeleine Nightingale. (1929)
  • The Great Weird Stories (1929) (editor) (as Arthur Neale)
  • The Lady's Prisoner by Bowen, with The Story of Mr. Bell. by Geoffrey M. Boumphrey (1929)
  • A Family Comedy (1840) (1930)
  • Bagatelle and some other diversions (1930)
  • Captain Banner: a drama in three acts (1930)
  • Exits and Farewells: Being some account of the last days of certain historical characters (1930)
  • The English Paragon (1930)
  • Old Patch's Medley; or, a London miscellany (1930) – short stories
  • The Question (1931)
  • Brave Employments (1931)
  • Withering Fires (1931) – mystery novel
  • Grace Latouche and the Warringtons (1931) – short stories
  • The Shadow on Mockways (1932) – a Grand Guignol melodrama
  • Fond Fancy, and Other Stories (1932)
  • Passion Flower (1932), AKA Beneath the Passion Flower (USA, 1932) As George Preedy
  • Idler's Gate (1932) as John Winch
  • Dark Rosaleen (1932; abridged as Lord Edward in Command, 1937)
  • The Veil'd Delight (1933)
  • Great Tales of Horror (1933) (editor)
  • The Last Bouquet, Some Twilight Tales (1933) – short stories
  • I Dwelt in High Places (1933) – a novel based on the Elizabethan scientist John Dee's involvement with Edward Kelley
  • The Stolen Bride (1933, Abridged Edition 1946)
  • "Set with Green Herbs" (1933)
  • The Triumphant Beast (1934)
  • The Scandal of Sophie Dawes (1934) – about the low-born courtesan Sophie Dawes, Baronne de Feuchères, described by Bowen as a "vulgar wanton", "a young slut" and a "gutter rat"[19]
  • William III and the Revolution of 1688 (1934)
  • Peter Porcupine : a study of William Cobbett, 1762–1835 (1935)
  • Patriotic Lady. A study of Emma, Lady Hamilton, and the Neapolitan Revolution of 1799 (1935)
  • More Great Tales of Horror (1935) (editor)
  • Mary Queen of Scots:Daughter of Debate (1936)
  • William Hogarth (1936)
  • Trumpets at Rome (1936)
  • Crowns and sceptres: the romance and pageantry of Coronations (1937)
  • Worlds' Wonder and Other Essays (1937)
  • This Shining Woman: Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (1937) – a biography of Mary Wollstonecraft
  • Some Famous Love Letters (1937) (editor)
  • Wrestling Jacob. A study of the life of John Wesley and some members of the family. (1937)
  • Royal Pageantry (1937)
  • God and the Wedding Dress (1938)
  • The Trumpet and the Swan: an adventure of the Civil War (1938)
  • A Giant in Chains: Prelude to Revolution: France 1775–1791 (1938)
  • Mr. Tyler's Saints (1939)
  • The Circle in the Water (1939)
  • The Debate Continues: being the Autobiography of Marjorie Bowen (1939) (as Margaret Campbell)
  • Ethics in Modern Art (1939)
  • Exchange Royal (1940)
  • Strangers to Freedom (1940) Illustrated by Gina Dawson
  • Today is Mine: The story of a gamble (1941)
  • Airing in a Closed Carriage (1943) – adapted as the film The Mark of Cain (1947)
  • The Church and Social Progress : An exposition of rationalism and reaction (1945)
  • The Bishop of Hell and Other Stories (1949) – selected supernatural stories from her earlier output;reprinted in 2006 by Wordsworth Editions
  • In the steps of Mary Queen of Scots (1952)
  • The Man with the Scales (1954) – published posthumously
  • Kecksies and Other Twilight Tales (1976) – short stories
    • "Preface"; "The Hidden Ape"; "Kecksies"; "Raw Material"; "The Avenging of Ann Leete"; "The Crown Derby Plate"; "The Sign-Painter and the Crystal Fishes"; "Scoured Silk"; "The Breakdown"; "One Remained Behind"; "The House by the Poppy Field"; "Florence Flannery"; "Half-Past Two"
  • Gustavus Adolphus II (1594–1632) : elected King of Sweden, of the Goths and Vandals (1988)
  • Twilight and Other Supernatural Romances (1998) – published by Ash-Tree Press
    • Preface: "Marjorie Bowen 1885–1952: Some Random Recollections by One of Her Sons"; Introduction by Jessica Amanda Salmonson: "The Supernatural Romances of Marjorie Bowen"; "Dark Ann"; "The Last Bouquet"; "Madam Spitfire"; "The Lady Clodagh"; "Decay"; "The Fair Hair of Ambrosine'; "Ann Mellor's Lover"; "Giudetta's Wedding Night"; "Twilight"; "The Burning of the Vanities"; "A Stranger Knocked"; "They Found My Grave"; "Brent's Folly"; "The Confession of Beau Sekforde"; "The Recluse and Springtime"; "Vigil"; "Julia Roseingrave"; Author's Afterword: "A Ghostly Experience: The Presence of Evil"
  • Collected Twilight Stories (2010) – published by Oxford City Press
    • "Scoured Silk"; "The Breakdown"; "One Remained Behind – A Romance a la Mode Gothique"; "The House by the Poppy Field"; "Half-Past Two"; "Elsie's Lonely Afternoon"; "The Extraordinary Adventure of Mr John Proudie"; "Ann Mellor's Lover"; "Florence Flannery"; "Kecksies"; "The Avenging of Ann Leete"; "The Bishop of Hell"; "The Crown Derby Plate"; "The Fair Hair of Ambrosine"; "The Housekeeper"; "Raw Material"; "The Hidden Ape"; "The Sign-Painter and the Crystal Fishes"

As Joseph Shearing[edit]

  • Forget-me-Not (1932) aka Lucile Clery (USA 1930) and The Strange Cast of Lucile Clery (USA) (1942)
  • Album Leaf (1933) aka The Spider in the Cup (USA 1934)
  • Moss Rose (1934)
  • The Angel of the Assassination (1935) – Non-fiction (biography of Charlotte Corday)
  • The Golden Violet. The story of a lady novelist. (1936) Reprinted as Night's Dark Secret by Margaret Campbell, (1975)
  • The Lady and the Arsenic: The life and death of a romantic: Marie Cappelle, Madam Lafarge (1937) – Non-fiction
  • Orange Blossoms (1938) – short stories
  • Blanche Fury (1939)
  • Aunt Beardie. 1940
  • The Crime of Laura Sarelle (1941)
  • The Spectral Bride also known as The Fetch (1942)
  • Airing in a Closed Carriage (1943)
  • The Abode of Love (1944)
  • For Her to See. (1947) aka So Evil My Love (USA, 1947) – adapted as the film So Evil My Love (1948)
  • Mignonette (1949)
  • Within the Bubble (1950) aka The Heiress of Frascati (USA, 1966)
  • To Bed at Noon (1951)

As George R. Preedy[edit]

  • General Crack (1928)
  • The Rocklitz (UK) aka The Prince's Darling (USA) (1930)
  • Bagatelle and some other Diversions – Short Stories (1930)
  • Tumult in the North 1930
  • The Pavilion of Honour 1932
  • Violante: Circe and Ermine 1932
  • Double Dallilay aka Queen's Caprice (USA) (1933)
  • Dr. Chaos and the Devil Snar'd (1933)
  • The Knot Garden: Some Old Fancies Re-Set (1933)
  • The Autobiography of Cornelius Blake, 1773–1810, of Ditton See, Cambridgeshire (1934)
  • Laurell'd Captains (1935)
  • The Poisoners (1936)
  • My Tattered Loving (1937, reprinted in 1971 as The King's Favourite by MB)
  • Painted Angel (1938)
  • Child of chequer'd fortune : The life, loves and battles of Maurice de Saxe, Marechal de France (1939) – Non-fiction
  • Dove in the Mulberry Tree (1939)
  • The Fair Young Widow 1939
  • Primula' (1940)
  • Black Man – White Maiden (1941)
  • Findernes' Flowers (1941)
  • Lyndley Waters (1942)
  • Lady in a Veil (1943)
  • The Fourth Chamber (1944)
  • Nightcap and Plume (1945)
  • No Way Home (1947)
  • The Sacked City (1949)
  • Julia Ballantyne (1952)

As Robert Paye[edit]

  • The Devil's Jig (1930)
  • Julia Roseingrave (1933) – supernatural fiction involving witchcraft


  1. ^ a b c Robert Hadji, "Marjorie Bowen" in Jack Sullivan (ed) (1986) The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural: pp. 50–51.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Long, Mrs. Gabrielle Margaret Vere (Campbell)", in Stanley J. Kunitz and Howard Haycraft, Twentieth Century Authors, A Biographical Dictionary of Modern Literature, (Third Edition). New York, The H.W. Wilson Company, 1950, (pp. 845–6)
  3. ^ National Petition for A New Peace Conference,(23 November 1938) National Peace Council. (p. 8).
  4. ^ Cambridge University Press
  5. ^ F. Seymour Smith, What Shall I Read Next? A Personal Selection of Twentieth Century English Books. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2010. ISBN 0521064929, (p.95)
  6. ^ Black Magic: A Tale of the Rise and Fall of Antichrist (1909) is a Gothic novel uniting historical and supernatural elements..." George M Johnson, Late-Victorian and Edwardian British Novelists. Detroit; Gale Research, 1995. ISBN 9780810357143 (p.45).
  7. ^ Jane W. Stedman, "Shearing, Joseph" in Twentieth Century Crime and Mystery Writers, edited by James Vinson and D.L. Kirkpatrick. St. James Press, 1985. ISBN 0-312-82418-1 (pp. 797–801).
  8. ^ a b c d "Shearing, Joseph", in Stanley J. Kunitz and Howard Haycraft, Twentieth Century Authors, A Biographical Dictionary of Modern Literature, (Third Edition). New York, The H.W. Wilson Company, 1950, (pp. 845–6)
  9. ^ Neil Wilson, Shadows in the Attic : A Guide to British Supernatural Fiction, 1820–1950. Boston Spa, British Library, 2000. ISBN 0712310746 (p. 97).
  10. ^ Edward Wagenknecht. Seven Masters of Supernatural Fiction. New York: Greenwood Press, 1991 (p. 165, 180).
  11. ^ Don D'Ammassa Encyclopedia of Fantasy and Horror Fiction Infobase Publishing, 2009. ISBN 1438109091, (p. 188-89).
  12. ^ The Art of Fiction:Graham Greene
  13. ^ Fritz Leiber, "Wonder and Terror" in Kirby McCauley, Frights St. Martin's Press, 1976. ISBN 0-312-30625-3 (p.5)
  14. ^ Jessica Amanda Salmonson, "The Last Bouquet", in Stephen Jones, Kim Newman (ed.), Horror: 100 Best Books. London. Xanadu, 1988. ISBN 0-947761-37-3 (pp. 120–122).
  15. ^ The Courier-Mail, 6 February 1988.
  16. ^ Sheldon Jaffery, The Arkham House Companion, San Bernardino, Calif. : Borgo Press, 1990. ISBN 9781557420046 (p. 117)
  17. ^ Colin Wilson, "Colin Wilson on Grahame Greene's Autobiography", The Spectator, 18 September 1973.
  18. ^ a b Nell Gwyn: A Decoration, by Marjorie Bowen, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1926. This book was not written under the pen name, Joseph Shearing
  19. ^ Worthless Wanton


Further reading[edit]

  • Pamela Cleaver, "Bowen, Marjorie" in Lesley Henderson, D. L. Kirkpatrick (eds.) Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers. Chicago : St. James Press, 1990. ISBN 091228997X.
  • Edward Wagenknecht, "Marjorie Bowen" in Seven Masters of Supernatural Fiction. New York: Greenwood, 1991. ISBN 0313279608.
  • Brian Stableford, "Bowen, Marjorie" in David Pringle (ed), St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost and Gothic Writers. London : St. James Press, 1998, ISBN 1558622063
  • William Charlton, "She of Many Names", Wormwood Magazine 9, Autumn 2007
  • Mike Barrett, "Dark and Sinister Shades: The Twilight Tales of Marjorie Bowen", The New York Review of Science Fiction July 2010 (No. 263).
  • John C. Tibbetts, The Furies of Marjorie Bowen. Jefferson, North Carolina : McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2019, ISBN 9781476677163. Introduction by Michael Dirda.

External links[edit]

Electronic editions[edit]