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Jean Rhys


Jean Rhys was born Ella Gwendolyn Rees Williams in 1890 in Roseau, Dominica. Her father was a Welsh doctor and her mother a Creole. At age seventeen she was sent to the Perse School, in Cambridge and then attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. However, her father died and she had to give up her studies. She worked as a ghostwriter and a chorus girl before volunteering to work in a soldiers’ canteen in World War I. In 1919 she sent to the Netherlands where she married Jean Langlet, a Dutch journalist, poet and songwriter. Their son died aged three weeks but they later had a daughter. When Langlet went to prison for illegal financial activities, Rhys had an affair with Ford Madox Ford. The affair broke up bitterly and Rhys and Langlet got divorced.

In 1927, she published The Left Bank and Other Stories, using the pseudonym Jean Rhys, followed by her first novel, Postures (US: Quartet), allegedly an account of her affair with Ford Madox Ford. She continued publishing till the War and then disappeared from view. In 1934 she married Leslie Tilden Smith, who died in 1945. In 1947 she married Max Hamer, who died in 1966. Rhys herself was often in great poverty and only started publishing again when encouraged to do so by Francis Wyndham. Her best-known work, Wide Sargasso Sea, was published in 1966 to great acclaim. She died in 1979.

Books about Jean Rhys

Carole Angier: Jean Rhys
Carole Angier: Jean Rhys: Life and Work
[note that these two are separate titles]
Helen Carr: Jean Rhys
Arnold E Davidson: Jean Rhys
Coral Ann Howells: Jean Rhys
Fred Rue Jacobs: Jean Rhys, Bibliography
Louis James: Jean Rhys
Alexis Lykiard: Jean Rhys Revisited
Sylvie Maurel: Jean Rhys
Lilian Pizzichini: The Blue Hour
Elaine Savory: Jean Rhys
Sanford V Sternlicht: Jean Rhys
Peter Wolfe: Jean Rhys

Other links

Jean Rhys
Jean Rhys
Jean Rhys
The prime of Miss Jean Rhys
Dominica’s Literary Hero
Jean Rhys: Tossed about on an uneasy sea (review of Pizzichini book but a lot about Rhys’ life)


1927 The Left Bank and Other Stories
1928 Postures (US: Quartet)
1930 After Leaving Mr Mackenzie
1934 Voyage in the Dark
1939 Good Morning, Midnight
1966 Wide Sargasso Sea
1968 Tigers Are Better-Looking
1975 My Day
1976 Sleep It Off Lady
1979 Smile Please: An Unfinished Autobiography
1984 Jean Rhys Letters 1931-1966
1984 Early Novels
1985 The Complete Novels
1985 Tales of the Wide Caribbean
1987 The Collected Short Stories