Pamela Frankau

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Pamela Sydney Frankau (3 January 1908 – 8 June 1967) was a popular English novelist. Descended from an artistic and literary family, although abandoned by her novelist father, Gilbert Frankau, at an early age, she became a prolific writer in her early years. She stopped writing for a decade after the death of her lover, Humbert Wolfe, in 1940. After serving her country in World War II, she was married for several years to an American naval officer. In the late 1940s, she returned to England and resumed her writing career with even more success than before.

Early life and career[edit]

Frankau was born in London, the younger daughter of Dorothea Frances Markham Drummond-Black and the novelist Gilbert Frankau. Her grandmother was the satirist Julia Frankau, one of several famous siblings, and her uncle was the British radio comedian, Ronald Frankau. Never attentive to his two daughters, her father abandoned the family for another woman in 1919, Frankau and her elder sister, Ursula, were sent as boarders to Burgess Hill School for Girls, Sussex, until 1924. Frankau wrote about this period in her autobiographical novel I Find Four People (1935).[1]

She had success as a writer from a young age. Her first novel, at age 19, Marriage of Harlequin (1927) was well received by the crtics. Over the next dozen years, she published 20 novels. She had a long but stormy friendship with the author and journalist Rebecca West. A long relationship with the married poet Humbert Wolfe ended only with his death in 1940. Frankau then ceased to write for almost ten years. During the Second World War, she worked for the BBC, the Ministry of Food and then with the Auxiliary Territorial Service, where she began a lesbian affair with a fellow officer who sponsored her conversion to Roman Catholicism in 1942.[1] In 1945, she married Marshall Dill (1916–2000), an American naval intelligence officer. Their only child died in infancy, and before they divorced in 1951, she returned to England.

Later years[edit]

Frankau published her most successful novel, The Willow Cabin in 1949, which was based partly on the experience of her love for Wolfe, and her following novels were widely read.[1] First published in 1954, A Wreath for the Enemy is perhaps her most enduring novel and is still in print on both sides of the Atlantic. In the novel the events of one night transform what appears at first to be a typical adolescent crisis into a prolonged struggle for self-definition on the part of the novel's teenage protagonist. In part autobiographical, Frankau clearly identified with her lead character who is presented as a writer in development.[citation needed]

A long and happy lesbian relationship with the theatre director Margaret Webster began in the mid-1950s.[2] She wrote of her distant relationship with her father in Pen to Paper (1961).[1]

In a response to a questionnaire for the book Authors Take Sides on Vietnam, Frankau stated "I am against the war in Vietnam because I am against all wars, no matter how, where or why they are fought". [3]

Frankau died at home in London after a painful struggle with cancer, aged 59. She was buried in Hampstead Cemetery.[1]


  • Marriage of Harlequin (1927)
  • The Fig Tree (1928)
  • The Black Minute, and other stories (1929)
  • Three. A Novel (1929)
  • She and I (1930)
  • Born at Sea (1931)
  • Letters from a Modern Daughter to her Mother (1931)
  • The Devil We Know (1931)
  • “I was the Man.” (1932)
  • Women are so Serious, and other stories (1932)
  • The Foolish Apprentices (1933)
  • A Manual of Modern Manners (1933)
  • Walk into my Parlour (1933)
  • Tassell-Gentle (1934) as Fly Now Falcon (US)
  • I Find Four People (1935) autobiography
  • Fifty-Fifty, and other stories (1936)
  • Villa Anodyne (1936)
  • Jezebel (1937)
  • Some New Planet (1937)
  • No News (1938)
  • A Democrat Dies (1939)
  • The Devil We Know (1939)
  • Shaken in the Wind (1948)
  • The Willow Cabin (1949)
  • The Offshore Light (1952)
  • The Winged Horse (1953)
  • To The Moment of Triumph (1953)
  • A Wreath for the Enemy (1954)
  • The Bridge (1957)
  • Ask me no More (1958)
  • Road through the Woods (1960)
  • Pen to Paper. A novelist's notebook (1961)
  • Letter to a Parish Priest (1962)
  • Sing for Your Supper (1963)
  • Slaves of the Lamp (1965)
  • Over the Mountains (1967)
  • Colonel Blessington (1968) posthumous, editor Diana Raymond

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Raymond, Diana. "Frankau, Pamela Sydney (1908–1967)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 17 January 2013 (subscription required)
  2. ^ Barranger, Milly S. Margaret Webster: a life in the theater, University of Michigan Press, 2004
  3. ^ Cecil Woolf and John Bagguley,Authors take sides on Vietnam : two questions on the war in Vietnam answered by the authors of several nations London : Peter Owen, (p.108).