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Winifred Holtby Biography

(1898–1935), Manchester Guardian, Yorkshire Post, Daily Herald, Time and Tide, Virginia Woolf, Anderby Wold

British novelist and journalist, born in Yorkshire. Her studies at Somerville College, Oxford, were interrupted by the First World War, during which she served with the WAAC in France. At Oxford, her lifelong friendship with Vera Brittain began. Between the wars, Holtby became an influential journalist in London, writing for the Manchester Guardian, the Yorkshire Post, the Daily Herald, and Time and Tide. Feminism and pacifism were amongst the issues she covered. She also produced poetry, short stories, and a study of Virginia Woolf (1932). It is as a novelist that she is best remembered. The first of six novels, Anderby Wold (1924), explores the clash between traditional values and social change, and prefigures her final work. The Crowded Street (1925) was one of her most successful books; with its heroine's search for independence counterpointed by a portrait of middle-class Edwardian society and the First World War that devastated it, the novel echoes Brittain's Testament of Youth. In style, Holtby followed the nineteenth-century realist school, focusing on domestic and social issues; the exception was Mandoa! Mandoa! (1933), a satire on Western industrialized society. Set in an imaginary African state, it enabled Holtby to pursue her concern for racial justice. The posthumously published South Riding (1936; James Tait Black Memorial Prize) was Holtby's finest work. A chronicle both of a Yorkshire community and of an idealistic young headmistress within it, was described by Brittain as a ‘testament of its author's undaunted philosophy’.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: John Hersey Biography to Honest Man's Revenge