Rose Allatini – A Woman Writer

Read a sample of the book by clicking here.

My monograph on Rose Allatini is now properly published and on sale.

It is the first book to examine the full career of the author of the 1918 novel Despised and Rejected. It considers her whole output, over seven decades (and under several pseudonyms) and questions several myths.

She was a woman whose carer was extraordinary. Born into a very prosperous Jewish family in West London, she set herself against her family’s expectations in order to become a writer – and a serious one: ‘I want to be a woman writer, not a lady novelist,’ declares the heroine of her first novel.

The First World War came as a shock to a young woman with close family connections in Vienna and Berlin. During the war years, she wrote three novels that in various ways expressed her discomfort with the war, and what it was doing to the men expected to fight in it. The second of these is Despised and Rejected, which caused a scandal by sympathetically presenting men who were conscientious objectors, and also homosexual. Dennis, the hero of the novel, is based on an actor with whom Rose Allatini had a close but difficult relationship during these years.

After Despised and Rejected, she seems to have suffered a breakdown, which provided material for her 1921 novel, When I Was a Queen in Babylon. Pixie, the heroine of this book is considered mad by her family and others, and is sent for treatment. The satirical account of Freudian analysis is, I think, the first in an English novel.

Pixie finds peace in a sanatorium run on Theosophical principles, as Rose Allatini herself did. My book gives a picture of the Chaplins, the extraordinary couple who ran the real-life clinic, and of Cyril Scott, the modernist composer whom Rose Allatini met there, and then married. My book considers the myth of this marriage, as expounded in Scott’s occult and teasing book, The Initiate in the New World.

Some writings appeared under the name ‘Mrs Cyril Scott’ (and a play under the name ‘R.L. Scott) but her next important books appeared in the 1930s under a new pseudonym, ‘Lucian Wainwright’. Two of these were written partly to draw attention to the dangers of the rise of fascism in Austria. (The second of these, Girl of Good Family, presents a different version of the Dennis/Antoinette relationship that is at the heart of Despised and Rejected.)

During the Second World War she began again, under the name of Eunice Buckley, with a trilogy of novels about Austrian refugees in wartime London and Sussex. These three books are a notable minor contribution to the literature of the Holocaust.

She kept writing as ‘Eunice Buckley’ until she was nearly ninety, producing a stream of novels. Some of these are on Jewish themes, and some are about musicians, but the books of her last years concentrate on theosophical themes, especially the idea of spiritual healing.

The recent Persephone reprint of Despised and Rejected included an Afterword suggesting that her other novels were all romantic fiction of the Mills and Boon type. I strongly challenge this, showing the range, sympathy and wisdom of a novelist dedicated to her art, even though she never attained much financial success or critical renown.

The book contains a very full account of the publication, reception and prosecution of Despised and Rejected. It reads the book in the context of her life and other work, considering it as a novel rather than as propaganda.

The book is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other booksellers, price £14.49. You may get a speedier response, though, by going direct to Lulu, the very efficient printing firm that produces and prints the books. Readers in Britain may prefer to email me, though, and I will be able to send them a copy more quickly, and at a reduced price.

A sample pdf of the introduction and part of Chapter One can be downloaded by clicking here.

If anyone has suggestions of journals or websites that would be interested in reviewing the book, I should be pleased to hear from them.

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4 Comments

  1. Tom Deveson
    Posted July 23, 2019 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    This is good news!

    I’ve ordered a copy and look forward to reading it.

  2. Posted July 23, 2019 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Does Rose Allatini fit into the middle brow category?

    • Posted July 23, 2019 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

      I suppose she’s middlebrow, since she’s not a high modernist, and not a writer for the pulps.
      On the other hand, the female British middlebrow novel generally has a domestic theme – relations within families or within marriage. Rose Allatini looks as though she’s heading that way with her first novel, ‘Happy Ever After’, about a young woman who wants to be a writer, and so disappoints her family’s expectations – but after that she becomes a different sort of novelist.
      ‘Despised and Rejected’, of course, with its defence of homosexuals, goes outside the accepted moral norms of the middlebrow novel. ‘When I Was a Queen in Babylon’ goes into territory that the middlebrow finds it hard to tackle – alienation, madness, reincarnation, Theosophy.
      Later books are sometimes more conventional, but still don’t fit the ‘middlebrow’ stereotype very well. The typical middlebrow novel is set in England, and deals with English problems. Many of Rose Allatini’s are set in continental Europe and deal with musicians and other artists. She never fitted the usual publishing genres very well, which is maybe why she was never a financial success as a writer.
      But I suppose one of the things I like about Rose Allatini is that she doesn’t fit neatly into any categories. She’s an individual.


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