Pamela Hansford Johnson

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Pamela Hansford Johnson
Pamela Hansford Johnson at her typewriter in the 1930s or 1940s
Pamela Hansford Johnson at her typewriter in the 1930s or 1940s
Born(1912-05-29)29 May 1912
Died19 June 1981(1981-06-19) (aged 69)
GenreFiction, literary and social criticism

Pamela Hansford Johnson, Baroness Snow, CBE, FRSL (29 May 1912 – 18 June 1981) was an English novelist, playwright, poet, literary and social critic.


She was born in London. Her mother, Amy Clotilda Howson, was a singer and actress, from a theatrical family. Her mother's father, C E Howson, worked for the London Lyceum Company, as Sir Henry Irving's Treasurer. Her father, Reginald Kenneth Johnson, was a colonial civil servant who spent much of his life working in Nigeria. Her father died when she was 11 years old, leaving debts. Her mother earned a living as a typist. Until Pamela was 22, the family lived at 53 Battersea Rise, Clapham, South London.

Johnson attended Clapham County Girls Grammar School, where she excelled at English, art history, and drama. After leaving school at the age of 16, she took a secretarial course and later worked for several years at the Central Hanover Bank and Trust Company. She began her literary career by writing poems, which were published by Victor B. Neuburg in the Sunday Referee. In 1933, Johnson wrote to Dylan Thomas, who had also been published in the same paper, and a friendship developed. Marriage was considered, but the idea was ultimately abandoned.[1][2]

In 1936 she married an Australian journalist, Gordon Neil Stewart. Their son Andrew was born in 1941, and a daughter Lindsay, Baroness Avebury (born 1944). Johnson and her first husband Neil were divorced in 1949. In 1950, she married her second husband, the novelist C. P. Snow (later Baron Snow). Their son Philip was born in 1952.

She wrote 27 novels. Her first novel, This Bed Thy Centre, was published in 1935. Her last novel, A Bonfire, was published in the year of her death, 1981. Her themes centred on the moral responsibility of the individual in their personal and social relations.[3] The fictional genres she used ranged from romantic comedy (Night and Silence Who is Here?) and high comedy (The Unspeakable Skipton) to tragedy (The Holiday Friend) and the psychological study of cruelty (An Error of Judgement). She also wrote two detective novels, jointly with her first husband Neil Stewart, under the joint pseudonym Nap Lombard. She wrote seven short plays, six of them in collaboration with C. P. Snow. She published a number of critical works, short stories, verse, sociological studies, and a collection of autobiographical essays. She reviewed extensively for magazines and newspapers and broadcast on the BBC radio programme The Critics.

She was a FRSL and received a CBE in 1975. She was awarded the honorary degrees of Hon. DLitt (Temple University, Philadelphia 1963;[4] York University, Toronto; Widener university, Chester, Pennsylvania) and Hon. DHL (Louisville, Kentucky). She was a Fellow of the Center for Advanced Studies at Wesleyan University,[5] of Timothy Dwight College, Yale University and of Founders College, York University, Toronto and held visiting academic positions at other North American universities including Harvard, Berkeley, Haverford and Cornell.[6][7]

C. P. Snow died in July 1980. Less than a year later, Pamela Hansford Johnson died in London. Her ashes were scattered on the river Avon, at Stratford upon Avon.



  • This Bed Thy Centre (1935)
  • Blessed Above Women (1936)
  • Here Today (1937)
  • World's End (1937)
  • The Monument (1938)
  • Girdle of Venus (1939)
  • Too Dear for My Possessing (1940)
  • The Family Pattern (1942)
  • Winter Quarters (1943)
  • The Trojan Brothers (1944)
  • An Avenue of Stone (1947)
  • A Summer to Decide (1948)
  • The Philistines (1949)
  • Catherine Carter (1952)
  • An Impossible Marriage (1954)
  • The Last Resort (1956)
  • The Unspeakable Skipton (1959)
  • The Humbler Creation (1959)
  • An Error of Judgement (1962)
  • Night and Silence Who is Here? (1963)[8]
  • Cork Street, Next to the Hatters (1965)
  • The Survival of the Fittest (1968)
  • The Honours Board (1970)
  • The Holiday Friend (1972)
  • The Good Listener (1975)
  • The Good Husband (1978)
  • A Bonfire (1981)
  • Tidy Death (with Neil Stewart) as Nap Lombard (1940)
  • The Grinning Pig (with Neil Stewart) as Nap Lombard (1943)

Critical works[edit]


  • Corinth House (1950)
  • Family Party (with C.P. Snow) (1951)
  • Her Best Foot Forward (with C.P. Snow) (1951)
  • The Pigeon with the Silver Foot (with C.P.Snow) (1951)
  • Spare the Rod (with C.P.Snow) (1951)
  • The Supper Dance (with C.P.Snow) (1951)
  • To Murder Mrs Mortimer (with C.P.Snow) (1951)
  • Six Proust Reconstructions (1957)


  • On Iniquity: some personal reflections arising out of the Moors Murders trial (1967), Macmillan, ISBN 978-0684129846


  • Symphony for Full Orchestra (1934)



  • Important To Me (1974)

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ Andrew Sinclair, Dylan Thomas: Poet of his People (Michael Joseph, London, 1975) ISBN 0-7181-1438-8. pages 49–61
  2. ^ Pamela Hansford Johnson, Important to Me (MacMillan, London 1974) 9780684139937. pages 140–149
  3. ^ Isabel Quigley, Pamela Hansford, Johnson British Council Writers and their Work (Longmans, U.K., 1968)
  4. ^ Neil D. Theobald. "Executive Office of the President". Retrieved 2015-11-15.
  5. ^ "Guide to the Center for Advanced Studies Records, 1958 - 1969 Processed by: University Archives staff; machine-readable finding aid created by: Valerie Gillispie &hdrsca; © 2008 Wesleyan University. All Rights Reserved. Machine-readable finding aid derived from XML authoring program. Date of source: June 2008 Description is in English Finding aid was prepared using DACS". Archived from the original on 14 March 2017. Retrieved 15 November 2015.
  6. ^ Pamela Hansford Johnson, Important to Me (MacMillan, London 1974) ISBN 9780684139937. pages 104
  7. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
  8. ^ "Books: Midsummer Night's Waking". TIME. 1963-07-26. Retrieved 2015-11-15.