Pamela Hansford Johnson’s first novel, This Bed Thy Centre, published in 1935 when she was 22 and had no literary contacts to ease her path, was a succès de scandale. On the publication of her second, John Brophy wrote in Time and Tide: ‘I have no doubt at all that Miss Hansford Johnson is already one of the most gifted and interesting of the younger novelists. Her career is of importance to literature.’ She went on to write a further twenty-five novels, nearly all highly praised by the most important critics of the day. In addition to their aesthetic worth, many are remarkable for the portraits they paint of almost forgotten worlds. Her 1930s novels are not set in the privileged surroundings featured in the novels of contemporaries, but in the down-to-earth milieu of lower middle-class Londoners. Her novels of the 1940s and 1950s portray the period of social adjustment during and after the Second World War. Later, several of her novels focused on moral dilemmas, and she varied her range with a group of well-received satirical novels. She also wrote plays, literary monographs and a meditation on the Moors Murder Trial, broadcast frequently on the Third Programme, and was a regular panel member on the acclaimed radio programme, ‘The Critics’, and BBC TV’s ‘Brains Trust’.
This is the first biography of Pamela Hansford Johnson, and has been written with the co-operation of her three children, who allowed the author access to previously unexamined diaries and letters. These illuminate their mother’s eventful and often entertaining literary progress, against the odds, as well as her private life, which was full of incident, an early episode being her youthful romance with Dylan Thomas. Her first marriage was to an Australian journalist. Subsequently she married the novelist and scientist, C.P. (later Lord) Snow. The Snows formed a celebrated literary partnership, travelling widely, and being fêted in academic circles in the USA and the USSR, but also attracting adverse attention from the satire movement emerging in Britain in the 1960s. She received the CBE for services to literature in 1975.
After a number of administrative jobs, Wendy Pollard worked for five years as editorial assistant on the Newsdesk of Independent Television News. While her family was growing up, she studied with the Open University, gaining a first-class honours degree. She was awarded a PhD in 2000 by the English Faculty of the University of Cambridge, for a dissertation on the literary reception of the works of Rosamond Lehmann, which was later published as Rosamond Lehmann and Her Critics: The Vagaries of Literary Reception.