Rosemary Manning

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Rosemary Manning
in 1985 campaigning for gay rights
in 1985 campaigning for gay rights
Born9 December 1911
Died5 April 1988
Royal Tunbridge Wells
Pen nameSarah Davys
Mary Voyle
NationalityUnited Kingdom
GenreAdult and children books

Rosemary Joy Manning (b. Weymouth, Dorset 9 December 1911 – 5 April 1988, Tunbridge Wells)[1] was a British author of both adult and children's books. Her best-known novel is The Chinese Garden, considered by some to be an important lesbian book. She was also well known for her popular Dragon children's series. She was also known by the pseudonyms Sarah Davys and Mary Voyle.[1]


Manning was born in 1911 to Thomas and Mary in Weymouth. Her father was a doctor but he had to resign following a scandal. Manning was sent to a boarding school in Devon; her experiences there would later influence The Chinese Garden. She studied at Royal Holloway College from 1930 to 1933 and graduated with a 2nd class honours degree in Classics.[1]


She first worked in an Oxford Street department store then as a secretary[1] In the 1930s, unhappy at work she suffered a nervous breakdown and was unsuccessfully treated at the Maudsley Hospital by unsympathetic doctors due to her lesbianism. Her former headmistress offered her teaching work and she stayed as a teacher for a further 35 years. In 1950 she moved with a friend to Hampstead, north London, to take over a long-established girls' preparatory school and became headmistress.

In 1962 she broke up with her partner and in April she tried to kill herself using the drug Luminal. However a suicide note was delivered promptly by the post office and help arrived. She was sad to find that she had failed.[1] Later that year she published The Chinese Garden which is mentioned above. The book is considered important as a lesbian novel.[2]

She later took up writing, After retirement, she came out as a lesbian during a television interview in 1980.[1] In 1985 when the Greater London Council launched their Changing the World Lesbian and Gay Charter Manning was there at the launch. She appeared with Miriam Margolyes, Valerie Wise, Ken Livingstone, Jenni Fletcher and Jimmy Somerville.[3]


  • Look, Stranger (1960)
  • The Chinese Garden (1962)[2]
  • Man on a Tower (1965)
  • A Time and A Time (1971)
  • A Corridor of Mirrors (1987) - Autobiography[1]

Dragon series[edit]

  • Green Smoke (1957)
  • Dragon in Danger (1959)
  • The Dragon's Quest (1961)
  • The Dragon in the Harbour (1980)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Oxford Dictionary of National Biography - subscription based - accessed 26 August 2011
  2. ^ a b 10 best lesbian books, The Guardian, Retrieved 20 June 2017
  3. ^ Why LGBTQ Places Matter, HistoricEngland, Retrieved 20 June 2017