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Antonia White, pseudonym of Eirene Botting Biography

(1899–1980), pseudonym of Eirene Botting, Life and Letters, Time and Tide, Daily Mirror, Sunday Pictorial

British novelist, born in London. Following her father's conversion to Catholicism, she was sent to a convent boarding school but later left in disgrace. She trained as an actress at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and afterwards toured the provinces. White began her journalistic career as Assistant Editor of Desmond McCarthy's Life and Letters and also worked as theatre critic of Time and Tide, the Daily Mirror, and the Sunday Pictorial. At the outbreak of war she joined the BBC and later the Political Intelligence Department of the Foreign Office. As a novelist, she won fame with Frost in May (1933). Seventeen years later The Lost Traveller (1950), followed by The Sugar House (1952) and Beyond the Glass (1954), completed what became known as the ‘Frost in May’ quartet. Largely autobiographical, it was dramatized by the BBC a year after her death. Other works include Strangers (1954), short stories; The Hound and the Falcon (1965), an account of her reconversion to the Catholic faith; and As Once in May (1983), a selection of her essays and memorabilia, including a fragment of childhood autobiography, which appeared posthumously. She found additional prestige as a translator, notably with her translation of Maupassant's Une Vie and of many of Colette's novels. Despite a consistent struggle against ‘writer's block’ from 1926, she produced a number of personal journals and diaries, which reflect the fear of madness that troubled her throughout her adult life; at the age of 21, she had been certified insane and spent a year in the Royal Bethlehem Hospital. White married three times; her first marriage was annulled by the Catholic Church, and her third marriage was to Tom Hopkinson, the editor of Picture Post. Her friends included George Barker, Djuna Barnes, David Gasgoyne, Kathleen Raine, and Dylan Thomas. Susan Chitty edited her early autobiography As Once in May and her Diaries (1991 and 1992), covering 192657 and 195879 respectively; Susan Chitty and Lyndall Hopkinson have both published memoirs, in 1985 and 1988 respectively.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Robert Penn Warren Biography to Kenneth White Biography