Phyllis Bottome

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Phyllis Forbes Dennis (née Bottome /bəˈtm/ bə-TOHM; 31 May 1884 – 22 August 1963) was a British novelist and short story writer.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Bottome was born in 1884, in Rochester, Kent, the daughter of an American clergyman, Rev. William MacDonald Bottome, and an Englishwoman, Mary (Leatham) Bottome.[2]

In 1901, following the death of her sister Wilmett of the same disease, Bottome was diagnosed with tuberculosis.[3] She travelled to St Moritz in the hope that this would improve her health as mountain air was perceived as better for patients with tuberculosis.[3]

In 1917, in Paris, she married Alban Ernan Forbes Dennis, a British diplomat working firstly in Marseilles and then in Vienna as Passport Control Officer, a cover for his real role as MI6 Head of Station with responsibility for Austria, Hungary and Yugoslavia.[4][5] They had met in 1904 at a villa in St Moritz, where Bottome was lodging.[6]

Bottome studied individual psychology under Alfred Adler while in Vienna.[7][5]

In 1924 she and her husband started a school in Kitzbühel in Austria. Based on the teaching of languages, the school was intended to be a community and an educational laboratory to determine how psychology and educational theory could cure the ills of nations. One of their more famous pupils was Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond novels. In 1960, Fleming wrote to Bottome, "My life with you both is one of my most cherished memories, and heaven knows where I should be today without Ernan."[8][page needed] It has been argued that Fleming took the idea of James Bond from the character Mark Chalmers in Bottome's spy novel The Lifeline.[9][10] Other pupils at Kitzbühel who went on to become authors included Ralph Arnold, Cyril Connolly (who wrote about his time there in The Unquiet Grave),[11] and Nigel Dennis.

In 1935, her novel Private Worlds was made into a film of the same title. Set in a psychiatric clinic, Bottome's knowledge of individual psychology proved useful in creating a realistic scene. Bottome saw her share of trouble with Danger Signal, which the Hays Office forbade from becoming a Hollywood film. Germany became Bottome's home in the late 1930s,[7][page needed] and it inspired her novel The Mortal Storm, the film of which was the first to mention Hitler's name and be set in Nazi Germany. Bottome was an active anti-fascist.[12]

In total, four of her works—Private Worlds, The Mortal Storm, Danger Signal, and The Heart of a Child—were adapted to film.[13] In addition to fiction, she is also known as an Adlerian who wrote a biography of Alfred Adler.[14]

Bottome died in London on 22 August 1963. Forbes Dennis would die in July 1972 in Brighton.

There is a large collection of her literary papers and correspondence in the British Library acquired in 2000 (Add MSS 78832-78903).[15] A second tranche, consisting of correspondence and literary manuscripts, was acquired by the British Library in 2005.[16] The British Library also holds the Phyllis Bottome/Hodder-Salmon Papers consisting of correspondence, papers and press cuttings relating to Bottome.[17]


She wrote her first novel when she was just seventeen.

  • The Dark Tower, 1916
  • The Second Fiddle, 1917
  • The Derelict, 1917 (U.S.), 1923 (U.K.)
  • A Servant of Reality, 1919
  • Kingfisher, 1922
  • The Perfect Wife, 1924
  • Life of Olive Schreiner, 1924
  • Old Wine, 1925
  • The Belated Reckoning, 1926
  • The Messenger of the Gods — The Story of a Girl of Today, 1927, George H. Doran Company
  • Strange Fruit: Stories, 1928
  • Windlestraws, 1929
  • The Advances of Harriet, 1933
  • Private Worlds, 1934
  • Level Crossing, 1936
  • The Mortal Storm, Oct 1937
  • Alfred Adler – Apostle of Freedom. London 1939, Faber & Faber, 3rd Ed. 1957
  • Danger Signal, 1939 (original title: Murder in the Bud)
  • Masks and Faces, 1940
  • Formidable to Tyrants, 1941
  • London Pride, 1941. A boy's experience of the Blitz and the Second World War. His family are separated by evacuation and a bombing raid destroys their home. After another raid he is injured and evacuated away from London.
  • Mansion House of Liberty, 1941
  • Heart of a Child, 1942
  • Within the Cup, 1943
  • Survival, 1943
  • From the Life, 1944, London, Faber & Faber. Six studies of the author's friends Alfred Adler, Max Beerbohm, Ivor Novello, Sara Delano Roosevelt, Ezra Pound, Margaret MacDonald Bottome.
  • The Lifeline, 1946
  • Innocence and Experience, 1947
  • Search for a Soul, 1947
  • Fortune's Finger, 1950
  • Under the Skin – Love Drew no Color Line when a White Woman entered a Negro's World, 1950
  • The Challenge, 1953
  • The Secret Stair, 1954
  • Against Whom? 1954. By chance a patient is brought to a sanatorium on the verge of death. How he not only recovers but manages to influence the lives of the scientists who have observed him is the subject of this novel. In the course of the book the principal characters find either that they must think of others and put that thought into practise or that those same 'others' will become their enemy and destroy, one by one, his most intimate relationships.
  • Eldorado Jane, 1956
  • Walls of Glass, 1958
  • The Goal, 1962 – her autobiography
  • Our New Order or Hitler's? A Selection of Speeches by Winston Churchill, Archbishop of Canterbury, Anthony Eden & Others, ed. by Ph. Bottome, Penguin Books Middlesex 1943


  1. ^ G.M. Miller, BBC Pronouncing Dictionary of British Names (Oxford UP, 1971), p. 18.
  2. ^ Twentieth Century Authors: A Biographical Dictionary of Modern Literature, edited by Stanley J. Kunitz and Howard Haycraft, New York, The H. W. Wilson Company, 1942.
  3. ^ a b Hirsch, Pam (2010). 'The Constant Liberal: The Life and Work of Phyllis Bottome'. London: Quartet Books Ltd. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-7043-7160-6.
  4. ^ Ian Fleming by Andrew Lycett, Phoenix, 1996.
  5. ^ a b "The Mortal Storm | Northwestern University Press". Archived from the original on 19 October 2015.
  6. ^ Hirsch, Pam. The Constant Liberal. p. 38.
  7. ^ a b Dumont, Herve. Frank Borzage. London: McFarland & Company, 2006.
  8. ^ The Life of Ian Fleming John Pearson, Jonathan Cape, 1966.
  9. ^ West, Nigel (2004). "Fiction, Faction and Intelligence". In Scott, L. V.; Jackson, P. D. (eds.). Understanding Intelligence in the Twenty-First Century: Journeys in Shadows. London: Routledge. p. 125. ISBN 0714655333.
  10. ^ "The Woman Who Invented James Bond?". 10 December 2016. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
  11. ^ Connolly, Cyril. The Unquiet Grave (1944), p. 66
  12. ^ Angela Ingram and Daphne Patai, (eds.) Rediscovering Forgotten Radicals: British Women Writers, 1889–1939. University of North Carolina Press, 2009 ISBN 0807844144 (p.19-20)
  13. ^ Phyllis Bottome at IMDb
  14. ^ Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing
  15. ^ Phyllis Bottome Papers archives and manuscripts catalogue, the British Library. Retrieved 7 May 2020
  16. ^ Phyllis Bottome Papers, archives and manuscripts catalogue, the British Library. Retrieved 7 May 2020.
  17. ^ Phyllis Bottom/Hodder-Salmon Papers, archives and manuscripts catalogue, the British Library. Retrieved 7 May 2020

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]