Enid Bagnold

Enid Bagnold on persistence

Enid Bagnold (October 27, 1889 – March 31, 1981) was a British novelist and playwright. Though now best known for National Velvet, she wrote about a variety of subjects in a number of genres. The daughter of an army officer, Bagnold was born in Rochester, England, and spent her early years in Jamaica, after which she was educated in England and France.

During World War I, she was a member of the British Women’s Services, and her early books, A Diary Without Dates (1917) and The Happy Foreigner (1920) detail her wartime experiences. In 1920 she married Sir Roderick Jones, at which point she became Lady Jones.

Bagnold is no longer widely read; her best-known work remains the novel National Velvet, telling the story of an ambitious 14-year-old girl who rides her horse, Velvet, to win Britain’s Grand National steeplechase. The book was turned into a film starring the young Elizabeth Tailor in 1944.  Another of Bagnold’s most successful works, was The Chalk Garden (1955), which became a film starring Debora Kerr and Hayley Mills in 1964. Her last play, Gravity, starred Katherine Hepburn.

Enid Bagnold - National Portrait Gallery London
National Portrait Gallery, London

No one was sure what to make of Enid Bagnold during her time. Virginia Woolf called her “a scalawag who married a very rich man.” Though Woolf’s legacy now outshine’s Bagnold’s, at the time, she was a bit afraid of her, as well as somewhat contemptuous. With her prickly personality, her colleagues in the arts called her a “demon lady” and “a monster.” Even her children and grandchildren were often puzzled by or frightened of her.

Bagnold’s contemporaries couldn’t quite decide if she was old-fashioned or on the cutting edge. What is sure is that Bagnold is remembered for for only a small portion of her wide-ranging output.

 

 

 

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