William McFee

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William McFee
William McFee - Apr 1922 Harpers.jpg
Born William McFee
(1881-06-15)15 June 1881
London, England
Died 2 July 1966(1966-07-02)
New Milford, Connecticut, United States
Occupation Writer
Nationality English
Period 1908–1952
Genre Sea story

William McFee (15 June 1881 – 2 July 1966) was an English writer of sea stories. His parentage was Canadian.


He was born on the Erin's Isle, a three-masted ship owned by his father, a sea captain, in London, England.[1] Educated at Culford School, Suffolk, he became a mechanical engineer at Richard Moreland & Sons and W. Summerscales & Sons in the City, before going to sea as a marine engineer in 1906. He rose to chief engineer in ships of the Woodfield SS Co.; went to the United States in 1911 and wrote books, afterwards going to sea in ships of the United Fruit Company. During World War I he served in the Royal Navy as engineer in various transport ships. While in the navy he met Pauline Khondoff, a Bulgarian refugee. The couple wed in 1920, but divorced in 1932. He was married twice more, first to Beatrice Allender who died in 1952 and then to Dorothy North. After the war, he returned to the United States to live in Roxbury, Connecticut. He was with the United Fruit Company, as chief engineer[2] until 1924 when he turned definitively to writing.

In addition to books, he also wrote reviews for The New York Sun and The New York Times. One of his reviews was for Save Me the Waltz by Zelda Fitzgerald, in which he said, "In this book, with all its crudity of conception, its ruthless purloinings of technical tricks and its pathetic striving after philosophic profundity, there is the promise of a new and vigorous personality in fiction." Fitzgerald said that of all the negative reviews of her book, his "was at least intelligible."[3]

He wrote several collections of reminiscences; his hobby was making ship models.


Great Sea Stories of Modern Times, edited by William McFee
  • Letters from an Ocean Tramp. Cassell & Company, Inc. 1908. 
  • Aliens. Edward Arnold. 1914. 
  • Casuals of the Sea. Doubleday & Company, Inc. 1916. 
  • Aliens. Doubleday, Page & Co. 1919. 
  • Captain Macedoine's Daughter. Doubleday, Page & Co. 1920. 
  • A Six Hour Shift. Doubleday, Page & Co. 1920. 
  • Harbours of Memory. Doubleday, Page & Co. 1922. 
  • Command. Doubleday, Page & Co. 1922. 
  • Race. Doubleday, Page & Co. 1924. 
  • Sunlight in New Granada. Doubleday, Page & Co. 1925. 
  • Swallowing the anchor: Being a revised and enlarged collection of notes made by an engineer in the merchant service who secured leave of absence from his ship to investigate & report upon the alleged superiority of life ashore. Doubleday, Page & Co. 1925. 
  • Pilgrims of Adversity. Doubleday, Doran & company, Inc. 1928. 
  • Life of Sir Martin Frobisher. J. Lane, Bodley Head. 1928. 
  • North of Suez. Doubleday Doran. 1930. 
  • Sailors of Fortune. William Heinemann Ltd. 1930. 
  • The Harbourmaster. The Sun Dial Press. 1931. 
  • No Castle in Spain. Doubleday Doran. 1933. 
  • More Harbours of Memory. Doubleday Doran. 1934.
  • The Beachcomber. Doubleday Doran. 1935. 
  • Sailor's Wisdom. J. Cape. 1935. 
  • The Beachcomber. Doubleday, Doran & company, Inc. 1935. 
  • Sailor's Bane. Ritten House. 1936. 
  • The Derelicts. Faber & Faber. 1938. 
  • The Watch Below. Random House. 1940. 
  • Spenlove in Arcady. Random House. 1940. 
  • A Conrad Argosy. Doubleday, Doran & company, Inc. 1942. 
  • Ship to Shore. Random House. 1944. 
  • In the First Watch. Random House. 1946. 
  • Family Trouble. Random House. 1949. 
  • The Law of the Sea. J.B. Lippincott Co. 1950. 
  • The Adopted. Faber. 1952. 


  1. ^ Erin's Isle was built in Saint John, New Brunswick by John McFee, one of five vessels he built there before he went to sea with his family. Source: John Herries McCulloch, A Million Miles in Sail, London: Hurst and Blackwell, 1933, p. 23.
  2. ^ William McFee fonds, biography, Syracuse University
  3. ^ Quoted in Nancy Milford (1970), Zelda: A Biography, New York: Harper & Row, p. 263
  • Everyman's Dictionary of Literary Biography, English and American (1958)
  • Love, Paul A. "William McFee." Dictionary of Literary Biography, Late-Victorian and Edwardian British Novelists. Vol. 15. The Gale Group, 1995. 195–203. Gale Literary Databases. 8 December 2008 <http://galenet.galegroup.com>.
  • "William M'Fee, Author, 85, Dies." New York Times 4 July 1966: 15.
  • Who Was Who 1897–2006 (2007)

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