“Enid Bagnold, married name Lady Jones, (born October 27, 1889, Rochester, Kent, England—died March 31, 1981, London), English novelist and playwright who was known for her broad range of subject and style.
Bagnold, the daughter of an army officer, spent her early childhood in Jamaica and attended schools in England and France. She served with the British women’s services during World War I; her earliest books—A Diary Without Dates (1917) and The Happy Foreigner (1920)—describe her wartime experiences. In 1920 she married Sir Roderick Jones (1877–1962), who for 25 years was chairman of the news agency Reuters, Ltd.
Bagnold’s best-known work is the novel National Velvet (1935), which tells the story of an ambitious 14-year-old girl who rides to victory in Great Britain’s Grand National steeplechase on a horse bought for only £10; a motion picture of the same title was made from the novel in 1944. Two quite different novels are The Squire (1938; also published as The Door of Life), which conveys the mood of expectancy in a household awaiting the birth of a child, and The Loved and Envied (1951), a study of a woman facing the approach of old age. As a playwright, Bagnold achieved great success with The Chalk Garden (1955); a motion-picture version was produced in 1964. Her other stage works include Four Plays (1970) and A Matter of Gravity (1975).
Enid Bagnold’s Autobiography (from 1889) was published in 1969.”
Margaret Drabble wrote in The Guardian of 31.5.2008:
“Enid Bagnold began life as a rebel, and ended it as the lady of the manor. She moved from Chelsea and Bohemia to the butler and the garden trug. Virginia Woolf described her as “a scallywag who married a very rich man”, which seems to sum up her dilemma in a nutshell – but perhaps too small a nutshell. She had to make shifts, Woolf said, “from self to self”, and it was these uneasy transitions which inspired much of her best writing, and which provide the staccato wit of her most successful play, The Chalk Garden, about to be revived at the Donmar Theatre. She wrote on the cusp, and provoked considerable unease. Was she old-fashioned or avant-garde? It was hard to tell. Woolf was jealous of her, frightened of her, and at times contemptuous of her. She did not know how to place her, and literary history has been equally uncertain…
…Bagnold nevertheless had to fight hard for The Chalk Garden, which was to be her most lasting success. She noted that “The Chalk Garden was refused in London over a weekend”, by Binkie Beaumont of HM Tennent. “It had taken me four years to write: and a fifth in battle with my New York manager, Irene Selznick. Fury, exhaustion, crossings of the Atlantic …” But eventually it was put on in New York in 1955, with Siobhan McKenna and Gladys Cooper, and a set by Cecil Beaton. Bagnold observed that, before the first reading, Gladys Cooper called her Enid, after it, Miss Bagnold, and later on, Lady Jones. “As I ascended in social position and went down in contempt I realised she had classed me as a social character who by luck (and possibly ghosted) had got some fool to put on my play.” But all ended well, with a Broadway triumph, quickly followed by a change of heart from Binkie Beaumont and a production at the Haymarket with Edith Evans and Peggy Ashcroft, directed by John Gielgud. Bagnold’s play has provided strong parts for actresses of character: subsequent productions have starred Dulcie Gray, Eleanor Bron, Helena Bonham Carter and Dorothy Tutin.
The play is witty, aphoristic, eccentric: it was acclaimed by Kenneth Tynan in the Observer as a vindication of the West End, as “the finest artificial comedy to have flowed from an English (as opposed to an Irish) pen since the death of Congreve … We eavesdrop on a group of thoroughbred minds, expressing themselves in speech of an exquisite candour, building ornamental bridges of metaphor, tiptoeing across frail causeways of simile …”…
…It will be interesting to see how the play performs in 2008. It is a curious piece, adumbrating themes to be found in several of Bagnold’s works – most notably the tension between servant and master, and the Freudian subplots that haunt apparently conventional households…
…Interviewing servants was one of the most stressful duties of the manager of a large household, and The Chalk Garden exploits the latent drama of the situation in a manner since further explored by Alan Sugar…”