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By: May Sinclair (1863-1946)

Book cover Mr. Waddington of Wyck

May Sinclair’s 1921 novel tells the story of the ridiculous Mr. Horatio Bysshe Waddington, a pompous, self-deluded poser making his way through life caring only for the impressions he makes on others. His long-suffering wife Fanny, his secretary Barbara, and the young scapegrace Ralph watch his daily performances with delighted, affectionate fascination as if they are spectators watching a play or scientists observing a new species, wondering every day how far he will go to fulfill his outrageous pretentions. As usual, Sinclair’s light, deceptively innocent prose camouflages a tale of sexual passions and human foibles with philosophical implications about her post-war world.

Book cover Life and Death of Harriett Frean

Harriett Frean is a well-to-do, unmarried woman living a life of meaningless dependency, boredom, and unproductivity as she patiently cares for her aging parents, waiting for a man to marry. When her opportunity for Love finally comes, she is offered a moral dilemma: the man is engaged to her best friend. Should she sacrifice what, according to the priorities of the time, seems like her "one chance for happiness," or should she seize the moment? Can she make something meaningful of her life without...

Book cover The Tree of Heaven
Book cover The Judgment of Eve
Book cover Three Sisters

Fascinated as she was by the lives of the Brontë siblings, May Sinclair loosely based her subtly sensual, quietly insurrectionary 1914 novel The Three Sisters on the Haworth moor milieu of the three literary Brontë sisters. Alice, Gwenda, and Mary Cartaret are the daughters of the Vicar of Garth, an abusive father with rigid, selfish expectations for female behavior. Hope of rescue seems to dawn in the person of an idealistic young doctor in the village, but this is no Austen romance. Described...

Book cover The Divine Fire
Book cover The Three Brontës
Book cover The Helpmate
Book cover Romantic

As a simple story told, "The Romantic" is one of Sinclair’s tightest and most compelling. Charlotte Redhead, a young British secretary, finds herself in a degrading extra-marital affair with her boss. In reaction, she renounces Sex and links herself platonically to a handsome young Bohemian (John Conway) she meets by chance, tramping in the fields. Together, under a powerful romantic excitement, the two rush off to Belgium in the early weeks of World War I, having organized their own little volunteer ambulance corps...

Book cover The Combined Maze
Book cover The Flaw in the Crystal
Book cover Audrey Craven

In May Sinclair’s remarkable first novel, Audrey Craven is a beautiful young woman who has by her idiosyncracies acquired a thoroughly undeserved reputation for originality. In fact, Audrey is a shallow, selfish, malleable person of negligible intelligence, with a fastidious horror of anyone who might be considered a nobody. Her pursuit of the stimulation of extraordinary minds (and her persistent fantasy of being somebody’s Muse) brings her into contact with serious women and men representing the profoundest passions of art, religion, science, and love...

Journal of Impressions in Belgium by May Sinclair Journal of Impressions in Belgium

In 1914, at the age of 51, the novelist and poet May Sinclair volunteered to leave the comforts of England to go to the Western Front, joining the Munro Ambulance Corps ministering to wounded Belgian soldiers in Flanders. Her experiences in the Great War, brief and traumatizing as they were, permeated the prose and poetry she wrote after this time. Witness of great human pain and tragedy, Sinclair was in serious danger of her life on multiple occasions. This journal makes no attempt to be anything more than a journal: a lucid, simple, heart-breaking account of war at first hand.

Book cover Tysons

Another frank May Sinclair exploration of fin de siècle English love and sex, marriage and adultery, "The Tysons" is the story of the caddish Nevill Tyson and his beautiful but frivolous young wife Molly. Sinclair uses a different narrative voice than we hear in much of her fiction, a sort of witty Jane Austen archness as she dissects the characters of the provincial village Drayton Parva. As always, she demonstrates an intriguing mixture of Victorian prudishness and modern free-thinking, particularly in her rendering of the sexual escapades of her characters...

The Immortal Moment The Story of Kitty Tailleur by May Sinclair The Immortal Moment The Story of Kitty Tailleur
Book cover The Belfry
Book cover Anne Severn and the Fieldings

Written in an era of cheap, formulaic romantic fiction, the nuanced, seditious, quietly erotic novels of May Sinclair stand out like literature from another era entirely. There is romance in “Anne Severn & the Fieldings,” but it’s romance of the best and profoundest kind, set in the context of authentic human personalities and tragic historical events. The motherless Anne Severn is adopted into the Fielding family and grows up in intimate friendship with the three Fielding sons, all of whom love her...

The Return of the Prodigal by May Sinclair The Return of the Prodigal
Book cover Mary Olivier: a Life
Book cover Superseded
Book cover The Creators A Comedy
Book cover Defence of Idealism

The philosophy of Idealism, revived in eighteenth-century Europe by George Berkeley, argued against philosophical materialism by maintaining that Reality is a creation of the Mind. Despite its flourishing under the leadership of Hegel, Fichte, Schopenhauer, and Schelling, Idealism had definitely fallen into decline late in the nineteenth century and early in the twentieth. May Sinclair, the writer of many popular but philosophically provocative novels and part-time World War I ambulance corps-person, was an unlikely one to take up the torch of the old school and try to revive it yet again for the twentieth century...

Book cover Combined Maze

Ranny Ransome is an idealistic young man, devoted to exuberant gymnastic exercises and to fighting “flabbiness” in his own life, body and soul. He loves the girlish and athletic Winny Dymond, and particularly loves participating with her in the Combined Maze, a choreographed, intricate, exhilarating group gymnastic ritual in which the young men and women of the Polytechnic Gymnasium demonstrate their skills. Unfortunately, Ranny falls under the spell of the seductive Violet, a sexual free spirit who wants nothing more than to live an untrammelled life on her own terms...

Book cover Tasker Jevons: The Real Story

In this May Sinclair wartime masterpiece, dashing newsman Walter Furnival is an absurdly good catch: handsome, successful, athletic, intelligent, an upstanding epitome of manhood and rectitude. Tasker Jevons is a puny, preposterous, impossible-looking, bombastic sports writer, without one single redeeming social grace. Imagine the jealous mortification of Furny when his enchanting young typist and love interest Viola Thesiger chooses the clownish Jevons as a lover, seeing in him a remarkable inner beauty not evident to anyone but her and (as he grudgingly but magnanimously admits) the long-suffering and devoted Furnival...

Book cover Two Sides of a Question

Here are two gemlike novellas in one volume, written in May Sinclair’s clearest and cleverest prose and exploring the many ways in which a woman can be held captive, held back from the “intoxication of freedom.” In “The Cosmopolitan,” Frida Tancred is a wealthy heiress trapped by family obligation in a dismal provincial estate, hopelessly longing to see all the glories of the world and with no way of escape but the conventional one of marriage. In “Superseded,” spinsterish Miss Juliana Quincey has been teaching arithmetic in a London girls’ school for twenty-five years when she suddenly falls in love with a much younger man and begins to question the assumptions of her life...


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